Global Usumbura: Mapping “third actors” and their international networks in colonial Ruanda-Urundi through judicial archives (1920s-1940s).

Project Details


When it comes to Belgian colonial history, the mandate territories Ruanda and Urundi have received considerably less scholarly attention than the Congolese context. Moreover, research on Belgium’s colonial past primordially focusses on Belgian and Central Africans actors, or the relation between the two, which risks reinforcing a narrow colonial binary logic. This project transcends these limitations of the existing literature on Belgian colonial Africa by zooming in on a third category of actors in colonial Ruanda-Urundi, namely that of traders of Arab and South-Asian descent. In terms of source material, the project draws on archival documents from the tribunal de première instance in Usumbura (today Bujumbura), which have never been consulted due to a lack of inventory. Until present, no researcher was aware of the existence of these court files. An important first step is hence to generate access to this archival fund, which contains about 13 linear meters of civil court cases, dating from 1924 to 1949. In a second phase, this project opens up research avenues to come to a better understanding of the global networks of which these traders were part, of their relation to European counterparts and of their treatment by the colonial state.
Effective start/end date1/02/2431/01/28


  • Colonial History
  • global trade networks
  • Ruanda-Urundi
  • Judicial history


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