African Studies Map Collection

Boston University’s African Studies Library has an extensive collection with over 1500 maps focusing on the continent of Africa and its countries. These maps range in publication dates from the seventeenth century to recent years and focus on entire countries or subsections of Africa as well as small towns and city environs. The collection includes maps that span a myriad of subjects from topography and geology to cattle distribution and rainfall and also contains a small number of transparencies.

Requesting a Map

Consultation of the maps is permitted within the African Studies Library Reference Area only. Please contact us should you have any questions.

See the menu on the right to access lists of the African Studies Library’s maps of Africa. At present the maps have been organized into three separate lists (by country, date, or title). The maps can also be found using the BU Libraries Search.

Map Resources

  • The Afriterra Foundation is a nonprofit cartographic library. Their online catalog provides high-resolution, digitized access to rare maps of early Africa (dating from 1480 – 1900). There are currently about 1,100 maps in their database.
  • The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection: Africa. The overall collections focus on 16th through 21st century maps of North and and South America, as well as maps of the World, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. The digital images and associated descriptive data are copyright Cartography Associates. The physical map collection is housed at the David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford University.
  • Maps of Africa to 1900 (University if Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) Digital images of maps listed in the bibliography Maps of Africa to 1900: A Checklist of Maps in Atlases and Geographical Journals in the Collections of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (Bassett & Scheven, Urbana: Graduate School of Library and Information Science, 2000). About a quarter of the collection dates from the sixteenth century, 9 percent from the seventeenth, and 13 percent from the eighteenth century. The Library is digitizing as many of the maps as possible, condition permitting. Maps are added to the collection as they are completed. There are currently, approx. 2,600 maps in the collection.
  • Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection from the University of Texas at Austin. The online collection includes maps from the CIA website and various other sources. Generally more current maps, though there are historical maps also. They are listed according to continent, country and region. The list also includes the year they were published and file size.
  • The Worldmapper site is a collaborative effort between University of Sheffield and University of Michigan. These are “density-equalising cartograms” of the world. Each map reflects a particular subject and countries are re-sized according to the variable/data being mapped. They are a wonderful visuals for statistical data. There are 366 maps currently on the site, with more being added.
  • All About Africa – Educational software providing interactive games, quizzes and tutorials regarding the geography of Africa. It is geared for children – high school, but provides useful exercises in memorizing/learning geographical regions, countries, capitals, rivers, etc. of Africa. Also provides a free blank map of Africa for downloading.
  • ‘Separatist Map of Africa’ (Interactive) – What Africa would look like if the separatist movements across Africa had their way. (The Guardian, UK)