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*African Studies Research Guide: Books

Covers major background sources, databases and web sites related to African Studies

A place to start

Have you got a topic already?  Then check out the Oxford Bibliographies Online - African Studies to find resources related to that specific topic.  Are you looking for books and articles on the topic of Aid and Economic Development in Africa?  There is a bibliography on it! Or Women, Gender and the Study of Africa - there's a guide for that too!

Emory Authors

Use LibX Tool Bar

Consider installing LibX Tool bar to your internet browser. This will allow you to quickly connect resources you locate to Emory holdings.

For more information click here.

Books: Reviews


Major Africana titles are covered in standard reviewing sources such as:

Books In Print+Reviews

Includes information on in-print, out-of-print, and forthcoming books as well as video and audio recordings from North American publishers. Also includes full-text reviews.

CHOICE Reviews Online
Provides reviews for books and electronic resources of academic interest. The electronic version goes back to 1988. A print version (Z1007.C4) goes back to 1964.


For specialized reviews of books dealing with Africana only, there are several options. Most of the major journals dealing with Africa have a book review section. Many of these reviews are indexed in the standard Africana indexes. Electronic indexes and full text periodical sources (such as JSTOR) often allow you to limit your searches to book reviews. In addition there are the following:

African Book Publishing Record

Z465.7 A37

provides selected reviews and lists of books published in Africa since 1975. Latest issues are kept in the Acquisitions Department.

H-Africa Reviews (1995-Jan. 2007); (link to 2007- )


Annual Bulletin of Historical Literature, Ref Z6205 .H54 for 1911-2002. Check "Africa" Section. Available electronically since 1998.


For reviews of older titles:

Africana Journal


A Bibliographic Guide and Review Forum, 1974-1998.

Index to the African Studies Review/Bulletin and the ASA Review of Books, 1958-1990 DT 1.A2293 Index 1958-1990

compiled by John Bruce Howell.

Africana Book Reviews, 1885-1945: An Index to Books Reviewed in Selected English-Language Publications

Ref. Z3501.E35

by David Easterbrook (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1979).

An unusual project of interest:

Africa's 100 Best Books
A list of "Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century" was announced on February 18, 2002. The list includes children's literature, fiction and non-fiction. Only books written by Africans were eligible. Books were considered in Afrikaans, Arabic, English, French, Kikuyu, Portuguese, Sesotho, Shona, Swahili, IsiXhosa, Yoruba and IsiZulu. The project was organized by the Zimbabwe International Book Fair in collaboration with the African Publishers Network (APNET), the Pan-African Booksellers Association (PABA), African writers' associations, book development councils, and library associations.

Finding Books at Emory: discoverE


discoverE is  Emory's main search tool to find books, journals, videos, government documents, microfilm collections and other materials at the Emory libraries, which include Woodruff, Pitts Theology, Health Sciences Center, McMillan Law, Guy Chemistry, Math & Science Center and, Oxford libraries.

Using discoverE to find books:


From the Catalog tab in discoverE  do a simple search:


  • Type in your keywords
  • When you get some results, use "Refine My Results" on the left to narrow your search by author, item type, date and more


* Too many search results? 


  • Add additional terms to your search
  • Limit your search by item type, exact phrase, and/or author/title/subject using discoverE's drop-down menus
  • Use discoverE's "Refine My Results" feature (in the left column) 


* Too few results?


  • Remove some terms from your search
  • Add synonyms using OR [in upper case] with parentheses - for example (women OR woman OR female)
  • Remember to use links in useful titles to locate other materials by the same author or on the same subject. Click "Details" to locate subject headings used for each title.


* Off-topic results?



You can also do an Advanced Search in discoverE which will allow you to search by title, author, etc as well as limit by format or language.

Consult the discoverE help page for further tips. Includes video tutorials.

NB: discoverE has a separate tab for searching articles but many of the main African indexes are not covered in this search. Use only with caution.

Subject Heading Searching

A sample list of Library of Congress (LC) subject headings for African Studies is found below. Many general subjects can also be broken down geographically or by ethnic group, eg. Decorative arts, Fula; Women, Zulu.


African languages (see also under the names of individual languages or groups of language

Hausa (African People)

Africa West (see also under other geographic sub-divisions including the names of individual countries) Some typical sub-headings are

Africa, West-colonization

Africa, West-Description and travel

Africa, West-Economic conditions

Africa, West-History (divided by time period)

Africa, West-languages


For more information on subject headings:


African Studies Thesaurus, Subject Headings for Library Users (Z695.1 A37 O85 1992)

Although dated, this remains a useful guide to over 4000 subject headings and Library of Congress classification numbers that apply specifically to Sub-Saharan Africa.


Remember you can do a keyword search in discoverE to locate books on your topic and then search on the subject headings of relevant titles.

Locating Books Beyond Emory



Multi-Library Catalogs


A merged catalog of 22 of the largest university research libraries in the United Kingdom and Ireland plus the British Library. Includes Oxford University (and Rhodes House Library) and Cambridge University.




A comprehensive catalog of items held by a wide-range of libraries including research and public institutions. Searchable by author, title and subject. Covers other formats beyond books but does not index journal articles.


Important Individual Library Catalogs



British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and its web site contains extensive information about the library's rich Africana collection.




Center for Research Libraries (CRL)
CRL is large collection of over 5 million items of infrequently used researched materials. It is strong for foreign doctoral dissertations, newspapers, and microfilm collections supporting area studies. Many, but not all, collections can be located through the CRL catalog. Materials acquired by the Cooperative Africana Microform Project (CAMP) are housed at CRL. Emory is a member of CRL and CAMP and has extensive borrowing privileges to all the Center's collections. Materials are borrowed through Inter-Library Loan and can be kept for extended periods of time. SEE CRL's African collections guide and African Studies Topic Guide.  Many CRL resources are being digitized. Search CRL catalog for these materials.


Herskovits Library at Northwestern
Established in 1954, the Herskovits Library is one of the largest separate Africana collections in the world, holding over 250,000 volumes, 2500 serials as well as an extensive collection of newspapers, maps and unique materials. The collection includes over 10,000 volumes in African languages. The holdings of the Library are accessible through NUcat, the University's online catalog. NUcat also includes the Africana Conference Paper Index, a searchable database to their large collection of conference procedures. Other large collections of Africana in the United States are found at Berkeley, Boston University, Univ. of Florida, Hoover Institution, Indiana University, Michigan State University, Stanford, UCLA, Wisconsin, and Yale.


Library of Congress - Africa Section
The Africa Section is the focal point of the Library's reference and bibliographic service for Sub-Saharan Africa. Africana holdings are integrated into the general collections and other special collections of the Library. For both historical and contemporary research studies, the Library's collections are substantial, including sources in every major field of study in the social sciences and in the humanities. Holdings include invaluable primary source documents, facsimiles, and secondary sources.SEE ALSO Africana Collections Illustrated Guide


SOAS: School of Oriental and Asian Studies
Houses over 1.2 million volumes with significant archival holdings and special collections for the study of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

SOAS also has a useful page on locating archives for your research with an emphasis on UK repositories' collections and a list of both online and published catalogues and guides.

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