British Colonial Literature Authors Bibliography


The conquest and colonization of the Americas and the enslavement of Amerindians and Africans have inspired a large and heterogeneous body of literature. In the two centuries following Columbus’s voyage, conquistadors, missionaries, and merchants wrote accounts of contact and conquest. By the 18th century, observers in Europe were writing about the colonies and slavery in a variety of genres, including fictional, scientific, and philosophical literature. At the same time, the colonies emerged as sites of literary production by writers of various backgrounds, including a small number of Amerindians and a larger contingent of “creole” writers of European descent. By the end of the 18th century, several former slaves had written autobiographical narratives recounting their experience of servitude. The African diaspora and slavery also created conditions for the interpretation of skin color as a marker of human diversity, giving rise to theories of race, including a significant corpus of scientific writing and reflections on the social, political, and cultural identity of Afro-descendants in the Americas. The 19th century was marked by several interconnected transitions. Beginning with the United States and Haiti, colonies began to gain their independence, European economic and strategic interests shifted toward Africa and Asia, slavery was abolished, and new imperial ideologies such as the “civilizing mission” gained currency. Literary culture evolved in parallel with these changes. Notably, slavery became an object of sustained critique by writers from around the Atlantic rim. Scholarship on the literary imprint of colonization and slavery in the Atlantic world has predominantly been organized by language, though there are also comparative studies that cross linguistic boundaries. Some studies are anchored within the framework of a particular imperial history, e.g., the British or French, while others advocate for transnational or regional categories such as “the Americas,” “the Atlantic world,” or “the black Atlantic,” arguing that these better reflect the circulation of people, ideas, and texts. One challenge of establishing a critical bibliography on the literature associated with colonialism and slavery is that literature is a fluid category and, as a result, literary scholarship overlaps significantly with cultural history. In addition to studies of narrative fiction and poetry, this bibliography includes scholarship on autobiographical, philosophical, economic, and scientific writing. Research on literature and colonization has expanded significantly since the advent of postcolonial studies in the 1980s, hence the heavy representation of research published since this watershed. Postcolonial theory and studies of postcolonial literature are, however, not included, with the exception of those that emphasize the memory of colonization and slavery.

General Overviews

There are, essentially, no comprehensive overviews of the literature of colonization and slavery in the Atlantic world because a study of this kind would have to cover four centuries, multiple languages, and diverse genres of writing. Broad studies include Davis 1966, a classic account of the place of slavery in Western culture that covers writing from the ancient, medieval, and modern worlds; Hannaford 1996, which traces the idea of race from ancient Greece to contemporary times; and Pagden 1995, which surveys Spanish, British, and French theories of empire from the 16th to the 19th century.

  • Davis, David Brion. The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966.

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    Classic study covering both ancient and modern worlds, which considers how Western religious and philosophical doctrines have variously sanctioned or contested slavery.

  • Hannaford, Ivan. Race: The History of an Idea in the West. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center, 1996.

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    Attempts to provide a comprehensive history of concepts of race from ancient Greece to the present.

  • Pagden, Anthony. Lords of All the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France c. 1500–1800. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995.

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    Intellectual history of European imperialism that covers, in broad brushstrokes, debates about conquest and settlement, relations between colonies and metropole, and the transition from empire to other forms of political association.

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From the Manuscripts collection...

Tambimuttu: The British Library holds a range of correspondence and papers relating to expatriate Sri Lankan poet and literary editor Thurairaja "Tambi" Tambimuttu. Some of this material can be discovered through the manuscripts catalogue by selecting an "Index Search" and entering Tambimuttu's name. Additional material is still being catalogued, but can be located by contacting Manuscripts staff.

•Other notable writers in English from around the world whose careers are well-represented in our Manuscripts department include Joseph Conrad, Nadine Gordimer, Rudyard Kipling, Katherine Mansfield, S. Menon Marath, Jean Rhys, Wole Soyinka, Rabindranath Tagore, Derek Walcott and Patrick White.

From the Sound Archive collection...

African Writers' Club (BBC Africa Services Collection): Recordings made of African writers and artists including Chinua Achebe, John Okai, Robert Serumaga and Wole Soyinka, in connection with the radio series 'Writers' Club', c. 1960s. Catalogue number: C134

Africa Centre: Recordings made of African writers, artists, and music groups, and international commentators including Peter Katjavivi, Mbulelo Mzamane, Loretta Ncobo, Alice Walker and Linton Kwesi Johnson, at the Africa Centre, Covent Garden, London, c. 1980s-2000s. Catalogue number: C48

Canada House Readings: Recordings made of Canadian writers such as Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Alice Munro and Robertson Davies, at literary events in Canada House, London, c. 1980s. Catalogue number: C41

Poetry International Festival: Author readings recorded at the Purcell Rooms, London, including writers Derek Walcott and Vikram Seth, c. early 1990s. Catalogue number: C492

Poetry Olympics Festival: Recorded readings by performance poets Benjamin Zephaniah and Molefe Pheto, among many others, c. 1980s. Catalogue number: C92

Royal Commonwealth Society: Recordings made at RCS of numerous writers and commentators from Commonwealth countries such as Ngugi wa Thiongo, Denis Healey, John Malcolm Fraser (ex-Prime Minister of Australia), Douglas Hurd and Sir Seretse Khama (ex-President of Botswana), c. 1970s-1980s. Catalogue number: C54

*Note that some of these recordings can now be accessed on the web through the Sound website pages (available at most UK higher and further education institutions and on-site at the British Library).

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ABELL - Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (Also within Literature Online)

AustLit: The resource for Australian literature

Canadian Poetry (Also within Literature Online)

Contemporary authors ( In Literature Resource Center)

Contemporary Literary Criticism Select (In Literature Resource Center)

Index New Zealand

LIFT - Literary journals Index Full Text (Also within Literature Online)

Literature Online

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Electronic journals

See in particular:

Black Renaissance

Callaloo (See Literature Online for later editions)

Comparative Literature

Comparative Literature Studies

Contemporary Literature (1968-2002)

Contemporary Literature (2003+)

Diacritics (See Literature Online for later editions)

English Literature in Transition

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Literature/Film Quarterly

Modern Language Notes

Modern Language Quarterly

New Literary History

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Studies in the Novel

Twentieth Century Literature

World Literature Today (See Literature Online for later editions)

Additional suggested journals are included in the select bibliography below.

On the Web - list of relevant sites freely available on the World Wide Web.


This select bibliography lists titles relevant to the study of literatures in English that are available at the British Library. A wide range of additional titles on this topic can be found by searching the Library's catalogues.

Please note that, in most cases, if the listed shelfmark commences with HLR, OIH, OIS or SPIS, the item will be held on the shelves in the Reading Rooms. Other items in the bibliography may be held elsewhere at St Pancras, or at one of our other facilities, and may need to be ordered from the catalogue.

Useful shelfmarksCanada

General referenceCaribbean


AustraliaNew Zealand

Useful shelfmarks 

These shelfmarks are for open access items (on the shelves) in Humanities 1 and the OIOC Reading Room.

HLR 700 Art

OIS 015.6 African bibliography

HLR 920 Biographies, dictionaries

OIS 015.68 South African Books in Print

HLR 950 Asian history

HLR 015.71 Canadian bibliography

HLR 960 African history, bibliography

HLR 015.93 New Zealand National Bibliography

OIB 960.016 African bibliographies

HLR 015.94 Australian National Bibliography

HLR 970 American history (incl. Canada,Latin America,Caribbean )

IOR India Office Records

HLR 015.5 Asian bibliography

OIS 920.06 African biography

OIS 015.5 Asian bibliography

OIS 920.016 Oriental and Indian bibliographies


Amoia, Alma and Knapp, Bettina L. (eds.). 2002. Multicultural writers from antiquity to 1945: a bio-bibliographical sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. [HLR 809]

Appiah, Kwame Anthony, et al (eds.). 1997. The dictionary of global culture. New York: Knopf. [HLR 306]

Benson, Eugene, and Conolly, L.W. (eds.). 2005 [2nd ed.]. Encyclopaedia of post-colonial literatures in English. London: Routledge. [HLR 820.99171]

Bolaffi, Guido (ed.). 2003. Dictionary of race, ethnicity, and culture. London; Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. [HLR 305.8]

Fallon, Eric, et al (eds.). 2001. A reader's companion to the short story in London: F. Dearborn. [HLR 809.31]

Fryer, Peter. 1984. The history of black people in Britain. London: Pluto. [HLR 305.896]

Gassner, John and Quinn, Edward (eds.). 1975. The reader's encyclopaedia of world drama. London: Methuen. [HLR 809.2]

Guinier, Lani and Torres, Gerald. 2002. The miner's canary: enlisting race, resisting power, transforming democracy. Cambridge, MS; London: Harvard University Press. [SPIS.323.173]

Hawkins-Dady, Mark (ed.). 1996. Reader's guide to literature in English. London: Fitzroy Dearborn. [HLR 820.9]

Hawley, John C. (ed.). 2001. Encyclopaedia of postcolonial studies. Westport, CT; London: Greenwood Press. [HLR 809.8917]

International who's who in poetry and poet's encyclopaedia. 1993/2001 [7th ed.]. Cambridge: International Biographical Centre. [HLR 809.1]

Ivison, Duncan. 2002. Postcolonial liberalism. London; New York: Cambridge University Press. [SPIS.320.51]

Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies. [4961.270000 DSC]

Journal of Commonwealth Literature. [p905/51]

Kinsman, Claire D (ed.). 1975- . Contemporary authors: a biobibliographical guide to current authors and their works. Detroit: Gale Research Company. [HLR 808.042]

Kirkpatrick. D.L. (ed.). 1991. Reference guide to English literature. Chicago; London: St. James. [HLR 820.9]

Kunapipi - Journal of Postcolonial Writing. [P.901/1743]

Leeming, David Adams (ed.). 1997. Storytelling encyclopaedia: historical, cultural and multiethnic approaches to oral traditions around the world. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press. [HLR 808.543]

Macdonald, Margaret Read (ed.). 1998. Traditional storytelling today: an international sourcebook. London: Fitzroy Dearborn. [HLR 808.543]

Magill, Frank, et al [eds.]. 1979. Magill's bibliography of literary criticism: selected sources for the study of more than 2,500 outstanding works of western literature. Epping: Bowker. [HLR 809]

Matlow, Myron. 1972. Modern world drama: an encyclopaedia. London: Secker & Warburg. [HLR 809.203]

Matthew, H.C.G. and Harrison, Brian (eds.). 2004. The Oxford dictionary of national biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [HLR 920.041]

Prendergast, Sara and Tom (eds.). 2003. Reference guide to world literature. Detroit; London: St. James. [HLR 809]

Riggs, Thomas (ed.). 1999. Reference guide to short fiction. Detroit; London: St. James Press. [HLR 809.31]

Schellinger, Paul, et al (eds.). 1998. Encyclopaedia of the novel. Chicago; London: Fitzroy Dearborn. [HLR 809.3]

Walker, Warren S. (compiler). 1977. Twentieth-century short story explication: interpretations 1900-1975, of short fiction since 1800. London: Bingley. [HLR 809.31]

Wynne-Davies, Marion (gen.ed.). 1995. Bloomsbury guide to English literature. London: Bloomsbury. [HLR 820.9]


Bute , E.L. 1997. The black handbook: the people, history, and politics of Africa and the African diaspora. London: Cassell. [HLR 305.896]

De Kock, W.J. (ed.-in-chief). 1968- . Dictionary of South African Biography. Cape Town: published for the National Council of Social Research by Nasionale Boekhandel. [HLR 920.068]

English Studies in Africa. (Journal) [PP.5094.aaf]

Gikande, Simon (ed.). 2002. Encyclopaedia of African literature. New York; London: Taylor & Francis. [OIS 809.896]

Herdeck, Donald Elmer, et al (ed.). 1974- . African authors: a companion to black African writing, 1300-1973. Washington, DC: Inscape Corporation. [HLR 809.8967]

Irele, Abiola. 2004. The Cambridge history of African and Caribbean writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [HLR 809]

Janheinz, Jahn. 1972. Who's who in African literature: biographies, works, commentaries. Tubingen: Horst, Erdmann, Verlag. [HLR 809.8967]

Janheinz, Jahn and Dressler, Claus Peter. 1975. Bibliography of creative African writing. New York: Kraus-Thomson. [HLR 808.89967]

Joyce, Peter. 1999. A concise dictionary of South African biography. Cape Town: Francolin Publishers. [HLR 920.068 OIS 920.068]

Killam, Douglas and Rowe, Ruth (eds.). 2000. The companion to African literatures. Oxford: James Currey. [OIS 820.996]

Limb, Peter and Volet, Jean-Marie. 1996. Bibliography of African literatures. Lanham, MD; London: Scarecrow. [OIS 808.89896]

Lindfors, Bernth. [Various eds.] 2003. Black African literature in English. Oxford: Hans Zell. [OIS 820.9967]

McIlwaine, John, et al. 1996. Writings on African archives. London: Hans Zell. [OIS 026.96]

Nugent, Paul. 2004. Africa since independence: a comparative history. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. [OIS 960.32]

Parekh, Pushpa Naidu and Jagne, Siga Fatima (eds.). 1998. Postcolonial African writers: a biobibliographical critical sourcebook. London: Fitzroy Dearborn. [OIS 809.896]

Pickhanick, J., et al (compilers). 1977. Rhodesian literature in English. Gwelo: Mambo Press. [HLR 820.9968]

Research in African Literatures. (Journal) [P.901/715]

Verwey, E.J. (ed.). 1995. New dictionary of South African biography. Pretoria: HSRC. [HLR 920.068 OIS 920.068]

Who's who of southern Africa . 1959- . Johannesburg; London: Argus. [HLR 920.068]

Zell, Hans (ed.). 2003. The African studies companion: a guide to information sources. Lochcarron: Hans Zell. [OIS 960.07]

Zell, Hans, et al (eds.). 1983. A new reader's guide to African literature. London: Heinemann. [OIS 809.896]

Zimbabwe national bibliography. 1979- . Harare: National Archives. [OIS 015.689]


Arnold, John and John Hay. 2001. The bibliography of Australian literature. Part 1, A-E. Kew, Vic: Australian Scholarly Publishing. [YA.2003.b.3090]

Australian Book Review. (Journal) [PP.8000.yz]

Australian Literary Studies. (Journal) []

Bennett, Bruce and Strauss, Jennifer (eds.). 1998. The Oxford literary history of Australia. Melbourne; Oxford: Oxford University Press. [HLR 820.9994]

Bourke, Colin, Eleanor Burke and Bill Edwards. 1998. Aboriginal Australia: an introductory reader in Aboriginal Studies. St Lucia , Qld: University of Queensland Press. [m00/43705]

Green, Henry Mackenzie. 1961. A history of Australian literature, pure and applied. Sydney: Angus & Robinson. [HLR 820.9994]

Journal of Australian Literature. [ZA.9.a.4434]

Locke, Fred and Lawson, Alan. 1977. Australian literature: a reference guide. Melbourne; London : Oxford University Press. [HLR 820.9994]

Kramer, Leonie, et al (eds.). 1981. The Oxford history of Australian literature. Melbourne; Oxford : Oxford University Press. [HLR 820.9994]

Shoemaker, Adam (1988) Black words, white page: Aboriginal Literature 1929-1988. St Lucia , Qld: UQP. [YA.1991.a.26612]

Wilde, William, et al. [2nd ed.] 1994. The Oxford companion to Australian literature. Melbourne; Oxford: Oxford University Press. [HLR 820.9994]


Benson, Eugene and Toye, William (gen. eds.). 1997. The Oxford companion to Canadian literature. Toronto , ON; Oxford: Oxford University Press. [HLR 810.9971]

Brown, G.W. (gen. ed.). 1966- . Dictionary of Canadian biography. Toronto: University of Toronto Press; London: Oxford University Press. [HLR 920.071]

Canadian Literature . (Journal) [HMNTS AC.2701.h]

Canadian who's who. 1910- . London; Ottawa printed. [HLR 920.071]

Essays on Canadian Writing. (Journal) [HMNTS X.0909/2049]

Klinck, Karl F. (ed.). 1977. Literary history of Canada: Canadian literature in English. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto. [HLR 810.9971]

McKay, W.A. and Wallace, W. Stewart. 1978. The Macmillan dictionary of Canadian biography. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada. [HLR 920.071]

New, William H. (ed.). 2002. Encyclopaedia of literature in Canada. Toronto, ON; London: University of Toronto. [HLR 810.9971]


Arnold, James, et al (eds.). 1994. A history of literature in the Caribbean. Amsterdam; Philadelphia , PA: J. Benjamins. [HLR 809.89729]

Fenwick, M.J. 1992. Writers of the Caribbean and Central America: a bibliography. New York; London: Garland. [HLR 808.89972]

Goslinga, Marian. 1998. Caribbean literature: a bibliography. Lanham, MD; London: Scarecrow Press. [HLR 809.89729]

Paravisini-Gebert, Lizabeth, et al (compiler). 1993. Caribbean women novelists: an annotated critical bibliography. Westport , CT; London: Greenwood Press. [HLR 809.89287]


Bibliography of doctoral dissertations accepted by Indian universities: humanities. 1975- . New Delhi: Inter-University Board of India. [OIH 011.75]

Diehl, Katherine Smith. 1964. Early Indian Imprints. New York & London: Scarecrow Press. [OIH 015.54]

Dodiya, Jaydipsinh (ed). 1998. Contemporary Indian writings in English. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers. [YA.1999 a.6186]

Garg, Ganga Ram. 1982. An encyclopaedia of Indian literature. Delhi: Mittal Publishers. [OIH 891.4]

Gidwani, N.N. and Nvlani, K (compilers and eds.). 1969. Indian periodicals. An annotated guide. Jaipur. [OIH 011.34]

Guide to Indian periodical literature. 1964- [quarterly]. Gurgaon; Prabhu Book Service; Indian Documentation Service. [OIH 011.34]

Indian books in print. 1955- . Delhi: Indian Bibliographies Bureau. [OIH 015.54]

Natarajan, N. 1996. Handbook of Twentieth Century Literatures of India. London: Greenwood Press. [OIH 891.4]

National Library. 1991. Author catalogue of printed books in English language. Calcutta: National Library of India. [OIH 019.541]

Ratnam, A.S (ed). 1999. Critical essays on Indian women writing in English. New Delhi: Harman Publishing House. [YA.1999 a.12294]

New Zealand 

Burns, J. 1981. New Zealand novels and novelists 1861-1979: an annotated bibliography. Kingswood: Heinneman. [HLR 823]

Evans, Patrick. 1990. Penguin history of New Zealand literature. Auckland; London: Penguin. [YA.1998.a.5903]

Journal of New Zealand Literature. [ZA.9.a.4438]

Robinson, Roger and Wattie, Nelson (eds.). 1998. Oxford companion to New Zealand literature. Melbourne; Oxford: Oxford University Press. [HLR 820.9993]

Sturm, Terry (ed.). 1998. Oxford history of New Zealand literature in English. Auckland; Oxford: Oxford University Press. [HLR 820.9993]

On the Web 

Institute of English Studies

Literature conferences world wide

Nobel Prize in literature

Postcolonial Web

Wasafiri: the International Magazine of Contemporary Writing


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