|African Diaspora Newsletter No.10 - Archival Reports|
|Entrance, White Fathers Archive (Italy) Photo Courtesey of: Y. Daddi-Addoun|
If there is a place to look for the activities of the Catholic Church in the suppression of slavery in Africa in general and in Algeria in particular, it should be the White Fathers' Archives in Rome, Italy. This was the recommendation of Father Miguel Larburu in Ghardaïa, Algeria. A trip to Rome was therefore necessary, at least, to see how the archives could help my study of abolition slavery in nineteenth century Algeria.
From the very beginning, the contact with the White Fathers was warm. They assisted in finding a fairly cheap accommodation at the Suore Terziarie di San Francesco, with the important detail that I can get in anytime in the night.
There is an electronic catalogue of the library of the archive (Schoenbrun, 1993). However, because the catalogue is only on internal network, it is still impossible to do any search outside the archive itself. The catalogue system is user friendly and Fathers Michel and Jean-Marie are constantly there to solve immediate problems. The catalogue included both published materials for the general public, diocese restricted publications, and archival sources. According to Father Johannes Tappesser (interim archivist), the archival collection is being microfilmed, even though there is no current prospect of digitization.
I was not able to consult the private collection of the late Father François Renault because it is yet to be catalogued and organized. These papers would have been of great interest to my research because Father Renault was a specialist on African/Middle-eastern slavery and on the activities of Cardinal Lavigerie. I hope to return to the archives as soon as Father Renault's papers are processed.
During my stay in the archives I consulted as well as digitized several interesting documents. Among these are diaries and daily journals of priests from different mission stations two of which are Ghardaïa, 1884-1892 and Attaf, 1872-1907, and the Chronique trimestrielle de la société des missionaries de N.D. des missions d'Afrique, nos. 1.1 (1879) to 88.10 (1900). These documents provide contemporary observations which complement, yet cover subjects that are missing or neglected by civil and military authorities. There were also the Fonds Lavigerie and Fonds Miscellanées that deals with a variety of information on the foundation of the White Fathers order, Africa and slavery to mention a few.
Once more, I am deeply grateful to the managers of the archives for their assistance and for the rich collections they have put together over the years. And like Father Larburu, I also recommend the archive to other scholars. Further information on this archive and on the recent activities of the White Fathers, are located on their official website: http://www.africamission-mafr.org/ (French and English). Some pages require a login name and password.
David Schoenbrun, "Using the White Fathers Archive: An Update" History in Africa, 20 (1993), 421-22.
History, York University, Toronto, Canada
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