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David Robinson papers

Identifier: MSS 350 large

Scope and Contents

The David Robinson collection on Western Sudan consists of materials collected by David Robinson (History and African Studies, Michigan State University) while doing research in francophone West Africa and France on the Haal-Pulaar people, especially those in Futa Toro (the middle valley of the Senegal River) and along their paths of migration into Mali, with a focus on the movement organized by Umar Tal. Over the course of 40 years of research, these materials were invaluable in preparing the publications Chiefs and Clerics: Abdul Bokar Kan and the History of Futa Toro (1975), The Holy War of Umar Tal (1985), After the Jihad: the Reign of Ahmad al-Kabir in the Western Sudan (1991, with John Hanson), and, to a lesser extent, Paths of Accommodation: Muslim Societies and French Colonial Authorities in Senegal and Mauritania, 1880-1920 (2000).

These materials will be of interest to those concerned with a wide variety of themes in the 19th century history of Senegal and Mali, and to a lesser extent of Mauritania and Guinea Conakry.


  • Creation: approximately 1960-2009

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Access

The material is stored offsite in Remote Storage. Please contact Special Collections 3 working days in advance if you wish to use it.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the authors of the items in this collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law. For photocopy and duplication requests, please contact the Stephen O. Murray and Keelung Hong Special Collections, Michigan State University Libraries.

Biographical / Historical

David Robinson (b. 1938) is a pioneer in the writing of the history of Muslim communities in Africa. In the 1960s and 1970s, when African history was emerging as a new area of study, historians of Africa were mainly concerned with reconstructing the history of the pre-colonial states and telling the story of the Atlantic Slave trade. They left the study of religion to the social scientists. Going against the grain, Robinson made an important contribution by both focusing on the history of the Muslim communities that form the majority of the population of Western Sudan and demonstrating the critical importance of local written and oral sources for a credible reconstruction of the African past. Because of his original and masterful scholarship, Robinson is celebrated as one of the most influential historians of West Africa.


16.2 Linear Feet (17 boxes) : 14 boxes 25 x 43 x 33 cm 3 boxes 27 x 40 x 13 cm

Language of Materials



The material is arranged into eight series: Series I: Correspondance Indigène (Archives Nationales du Senegal) and Other Dossiers; Series II: Selected Arabic Manuscripts from the Umarian Library of Segu; Series III: Chronicles on the Western Sudan; Series IV: Microfilm.; Series V: Interview transcripts and tape; Series VI: Primary and secondary materials on the Western and Central Sudan; Series VII: Sources of the African Past: slide/tape collection; Series VIII: Manuscripts, theses and other documents

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Papers donated by David Robinson in 2009 and 2010

Separated Materials

Theses and other documents on the Western Sudan from Series 8 are cataloged separately

Varying Form of Title

David Robinson collection of field notes and manuscripts.

Varying Form of Title

The Western Sudan Collection of David Robinson

Processing Information

Processed by Joe Lauer. Series Scope and Contents supplied by the donor. Jill Abood assisted with the processing of the front matter. Finding aid was updated by Leslie M. Behm in December 2016.

Finding Aid for the David Robinson collection on Western Sudan
4 Published And Cataloged
Finding aid prepared by Joe Lauer and Jill Abood, and updated by Leslie M. Behm in 2016.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Stephen O. Murray and Keelung Hong Special Collections Repository

MSU Libraries
366 W. Circle Drive
East Lansing MI 48823 USA