12 May 2014
This month we have four new collections online, these are EAP261, EAP427, EAP535 and EAP593. Two of the collections hail from African countries, Nigeria and Malawi. The other two collections are from India and Mexico.
EAP427 is a pilot project which looked to preserve Native Administration records from Malawi, formerly Nyasaland. These records date from 1891 to 1964 and were generated by the Native Authorities (traditional chiefs).
The records represent a rich history of Malawi from the colonial period up to the transition to self-rule. Prior to independence, the Colonial Government introduced the Native Authorities to Nyasaland as a way of involving the local people in the governance processes through their own traditional institutions. The introduction of Native Authorities meant that native chiefs became part of Government administration. As such, in the course of undertaking government business, the chiefs created, received and maintained a lot of administrative records.
Prior to British colonialism, Malawi was a predominantly oral society. The establishment of the native authorities marked a transition to literacy as the traditional leaders were required to conduct official business in writing. The records are a lasting legacy of the impact of colonialism on the people of Malawi and for this reason this project helped to ensure their preservation.
The project targeted 32 different districts to survey. It digitised a sample of records from four of the districts; these are now available to view online.
EAP535 is a major project which digitised precolonial documents from Northern Nigeria. The project focused on materials held by the National Archives Kaduna, which was established as the major repository for Northern Nigeria in 1957.
The records consist of three main collections. The first is a collection of Arabic manuscripts dating from the early 18th century to the 1930s. They include local chronicles, private correspondence, legal documents and religious literature.
The second, ‘The Secretariat Northern Province Collection’, consists of letters to various colonial administrators, official assessment reports, ethnographic reports, and numerous annual numerical files dealing with diverse subjects like agriculture, religion and slavery. This material dates from 1900 to 1959.
The final, the ‘Provincial Offices Collection’ consists of circular letters to various colonial administrators, official assessment reports, ethnographic reports, and numerous annual numerical files dealing with diverse subjects like agriculture, religion and slavery. The materials copied in this project deal with the period between 1900 and 1953.
These materials are of high importance as they document the social, economic and political history of the Sokoto Caliphate (the largest 19th century Islamic empire in West Africa) as well as the early years of British colonial rule in Northern Nigeria, when many features of Caliphate economy and society were researched by colonial officials. The documents are also of value to historians of Africa in general, because such resources deal with labour, culture, intellectual history and inter-group relations in the African pre-colonial era.
The project successfully created 62,177 digital images. These are now available to view online.
EAP261 digitised a wide collection of rare and unique material related to Bengali drama. The material was held by a private collector, Dr Devajit Bandyopadhyay. The collection covers the 19th and early 20th centuries, and includes texts of formal 'modern' drama, texts of jatra or traditional Bengali folk theatre, books of songs from plays, and secondary material of that period.
Apart from the documentary value, the collection offers unique opportunities for historical and thematic study. Bengal saw the first major rise of Western-type drama in India. The Western influence derived largely from Shakespeare and other Renaissance drama, and had suggestive resemblances with traditional folk theatre. The entire process can be traced through this archive, combining jatra with Western-type drama.
249 titles were digitised, some of them multi-volume, making a total of 385 volumes and over one hundred thousand images.
EAP593 looked to survey material relating to Mexico’s indigenous population. It focused its search on the town of Tenejapa. The project aimed to preserve archives which show the culture and traditions of these communities, which are changing rapidly due to the modernisation of the area. These include photographs, negatives and personal documents. The project digitised a sample of these collections which are now available to view online.
Check back next month to see what else has been added!
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