War Office Archive maps

War Office Archive
Detail of 'Umkamba Prov. part of (Central)' - War Office ledger. By 'B. Dickson Capt.' (1901). Shelfmark: WOMAT/AFR/BEA/54

The British Library has digitised over 1800 military intelligence maps and documents from the War Office Archive. These relate to East Africa, particularly modern-day Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Somaliland, Tanzania and Uganda, and parts of South Africa.

About the collection

The archive comprises topographical ‘compilation material’, built up and maintained by the War Office for making and revising maps, together with material created in the course of map production.

The maps were created between 1877 and 1940, and show the region as it was immediately before and during the colonial era. Ranging from small sketch maps made by intelligence officers in situ, through surveyors’ field sheets to cartographers’ fair drawings, most of the items are unique manuscripts, or short-run prints (often further annotated) made for limited distribution internal use.

The British Library has catalogued, conserved and digitised the archive with generous funding from the Indigo Trust.

We'd like to hear what you do or make with these maps, so please email us at maps@bl.uk.

What is available online?

A Google Map index shows the central point of each map sheet and provides links to catalogue records and high-res digital images, viewable on Digitised Manuscripts or available for download from Wikimedia Commons.

You can also batch download all the images and catalogue records.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Material can be viewed in the Maps Reading Room.

You can browse War Office Archive catalogue records or download them. They can be searched using the online catalogue, Explore Archives and Manuscripts.

What is available in other organisations?

Some reports, personal papers and maps relating to the archive are available at the Royal Geographical Society and can be searched using their online catalogue.

Further information

  • Jewitt, Crispin, ‘WOOGs, WOOSies & WOMAT – the War Office Archive’, Sheetlines, 102 (2015), 41-42

Articles on the BL Maps and Views blog: