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Expanding the Archival Horizon: American Archives for Researching Postcolonial Rwandan History


There is growing scholarly interest in the history of postcolonial Africa. However, this study entails several methodological challenges, including insufficient availability of archival materials. A multi-archival strategy offers one solution to the challenge of locating new documentary sources. In this paper, I suggest that nonconventional archives such as the National Archives of the United States should be explored in historical studies of postcolonial African countries, including smaller countries like Rwanda. Focusing on the political events that occurred in Rwanda in January 1961 that led to significant changes in the country, this paper demonstrates how American archival materials can enhance our understanding by shedding light on what existing colonial archives have not revealed.


L’histoire de l’Afrique postcoloniale suscite de plus en plus d’intérêt auprès des chercheurs. Cependant, cette recherche implique plusieurs défis méthodologiques, y compris celui du nombre insuffisant de documents d’archives. Une stratégie multi-archivistique offre une solution au défi de la localisation de nouvelles sources documentaires. Dans cet article, je suggère que des archives non conventionnelles telles que les Archives Nationales des États-Unis, devraient être utilisées pour étudier l’histoire postcoloniale des pays africains, y compris celle des pays plus petits comme le Rwanda. En mettant l’accent sur les événements politiques survenus au Rwanda en janvier 1961 qui ont entraîné des changements importants dans le pays, cet article démontre comment les documents d’archives américains peuvent améliorer notre compréhension de ces événements en éclairant ce que les archives coloniales existantes n’ont pas révélé.

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Helen Codere , “Power in Ruanda,” Anthropologica 4–1 (1962), 4585.

Gaurav Desai , Subject to Colonialism: African Self-Fashioning and the Colonial Library (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2001).

Carol W Dickerman ., “On Using the White Fathers’ Archives,” History in Africa 8 (1981), 319322.

Mairi S MacDonald ., “Guinea’s Political Prisoners: Colonial Models, Postcolonial Innovation,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 54–4 (2012), 890913.

David Newbury , “Precolonial Burundi and Rwanda: Local Loyalties, Regional Royalties,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies 34–2 (2001), 255314.

Bérengère Piret , “Reviving the Remains of Colonization – The Belgian Colonial Archives in Brussels,” History in Africa 42 (2015), 419431.

David Lee Schoenbrun , “Using the White Fathers’ Archive: An Update,” History in Africa 20 (1993), 421422.

John Straussberger , “Fractures and Fragments: Finding Postcolonial Histories of Guinea in Local Archives,” History in Africa 42 (2015), 299307.

Luise White , “Hodgepodge Historiography: Documents, Itineraries, and the Absence of Archives,” History in Africa 42 (2015), 309318.

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History in Africa
  • ISSN: 0361-5413
  • EISSN: 1558-2744
  • URL: /core/journals/history-in-africa
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