Endangered ethnohistories: preserving and digitising the DF Ellenberger ethnohistorical archive

"History of the Basuto, Ancient and Modern", compiled by the French missionary David-Frédéric Ellenberger during the second half of the nineteenth century, remains the seminal ethnohistory of the people who today constitute the population of Lesotho. This project digitised the full Ellenberger Archive consisting of approximately 1,500 original documents.

The work covers some 400 years of ethnohistory pertaining to Bantu-speakers. Ellenberger began collecting the materials in his archive in 1866 and gathered oral histories and genealogies until 1905. Thanks to bequests from Ellenberger and his descendants, Morija Museum and Archives (MMA, Lesotho) possesses the complete archive of History, reflecting the total process of assembling, editing and publishing this work. This archive offers a rare window onto nineteenth-century Lesotho and colonial knowledge networks. The testimonies that Ellenberger recorded, detail nineteenth-century Basotho traditions and sensibilities, and how these were changing throughout the colonial period. This project digitised the full Ellenberger Archive consisting of approximately 1,500 original documents. The material digitised ranges in date from circa 1866 to 1958, as Ellenberger’s children and grandchildren continued to annotate, research, clarify, and pursue ethnographic leads emanating from Ellenberger’s original work.

Project Details

Location: Lesotho, Southern Africa, Africa Organiser(s): Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) Project partner(s): University of The Witwatersrand Funder(s): Arcadia Funding received: £12,850 Commencement Date: 12/2015 Project Status: Completed
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