McIlwaine, John 1937- (John Hamish St. John McIlwaine)

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McIlwaine, John 1937- (John Hamish St. John McIlwaine)


Born August 10, 1937. Education: Oxford University, B.A., 1959; University College London, academic postgraduate diploma, 1962.


E-mail—[email protected]


Educator and writer. University College London, London, England, lecturer, 1965-1994, senior lecturer, 1994-2000, personal chair and professor of the bibliography of Asia and Africa, 2000-01, professor emeritus and honorary research fellow, 2001—. India Office Library and Records, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, assistant librarian, 1962-65. Former chair of the Standing Conference on Library Materials on Africa (SCOLMA), the Standing Committee of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), and National Council on Orientalist Library Resources (NCOLR); former editor of African Research & Documentation.


Besterman Medal, Library Association (later Chartered Institute of Information Professionals or CILIP), 1993, for Africa: A Guide to Reference Material; Centenary Medal, Library Association (later CILIP), 1998, for services to the profession; joint winner of the Conover-Porter Award, African Studies Association, 1998, for the most outstanding achievement in Africana bibliography and reference works, for Writings on African Archives; Walford Award, Library Association (later CILIP), 2001, for sustained and continual contribution to the science and art of bibliography.


(With R. Staveley and I.C. McIlwaine) Introduction to Subject Study, Deutsch (London, England), 1967.

(Editor) Theses on Africa Submitted to Universities in the United Kingdom, 1963-1975, Mansell (London, England), 1978.

(Editor, with I.C. McIlwaine and Peter G. New) Bibliography and Reading: A Festschrift in Honour of Ronald Staveley, Scarecrow Press (Metuchen, NJ), 1983.

Africa: A Guide to Reference Material, Hans Zell Publishers (New York, NY), 1993, 2nd revised and expanded edition, Hans Zell (Lochcarron, Scotland), 2007.

Writings on African Archives, with an essay by Anne Thurston and contributions by Pino Akotia and Justus Wamukoya, Hans Zell Publishers (New Providence, NJ), 1996.

Maps and Mapping of Africa: A Resource Guide, foreword by Jeffrey C. Stone, Hans Zell Publishers (New Providence, NJ), 1997.

(Editor, with Jean Whiffin) Collecting and Safeguarding the Oral Traditions: An International Conference, Khon Kaen, Thailand, 16-19 August 1999, Organized as a Satellite Meeting of the 65th IFLA General Conference Held in Bangkok, Thailand, 1999, K.G. Saur (Munich, Germany), 2001.

Do No Harm: A Register of Standards, Codes of Practice, Etc., Relating to Preservation and Conservation, IFLA (The Hague, Amsterdam, Netherlands), 2005.

Disaster Preparedness and Planning: A Brief Manual, IFLA-PAC (Paris, France), 2006.


A longtime professor at the University College London, John McIlwaine primarily focuses on reference works and is considered one of the preeminent African studies bibliographers. One of his most noted books is Africa: A Guide to Reference Material. First published in 1992 with a revised and expanded edition published in 2007, the African studies reference work evaluates the leading sources of information other than bibliographies on Africa south of the Sahara. The book features works published in English and French, as well as numerous other European languages. The expanded second edition contains 3,600 entries covering everything from encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks, to atlases, almanacs, yearbooks, and gazetteers. The author analyzes each of the reference materials for content and includes in his book a general section on Africa as a whole. In a review of the second edition on the H-Net Reviews Web site, Alfred Kagan noted: "This work greatly expands and updates his first edition published in 1993 and is a remarkable achievement. This reference tool is as close to comprehensive a treatment of African country sources as we are ever likely to see." African Affairs contributor David Blake noted: "The real value of this guide lies in the breadth of its geographical and historical coverage and the quality of the annotations," adding later in the same review: "The informative annotations are a model of precision."

Writings on African Archives, which includes an essay by Anne Thurston and contributions by Pino Akotia and Justus Wamukoya, provides a comprehensive listing of works on Africana archives and archival management featuring works primarily published since 1960. The bibliography includes journal articles, government reports, conference papers, and monographs, some of which are either unpublished or extremely rare. "In general, the organization of the bibliography is user-friendly," commented Joseph S. Caruso in a review in Research in African Literatures. The author's introductory essay is titled "Recent Developments in Providing Better Access to African-Related Materials."

Overall, the book is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on archives in Africa and the second on archives located overseas covering almost every country containing such archives except for Russia. The references are arranged with a focus on Africa as a whole and then into what A.H.M. Kirk-Greene described in African Affairs as "the conventional colonial divisions, arranged under first geographical and anglophone/francophone/lusophone groupings." The volume includes a completely revised and expanded version of the author's five-part series on bibliographies on African archives first published in the journal SCOLMA, which stands for Standing Conference on Library Materials on Africa. Writing in African Affairs, A.H.M. Kirk-Greene, referred to Writings on African Archives as a "magisterial inventory of materials (monographs, articles, reports, conference papers—the lot!) written about African archives."

In Maps and Mapping of Africa: A Resource Guide, McIlwaine provides bibliographical references to writing about maps, both historical and contemporary. Including the earliest known references on up to modern times, the book features a guide to bibliographies and catalogues of maps, individual cartographic references, and a bibliography of related writings. The references are provided for the entire continent, for individual nations, and for major regions. "A work of this scope, covering the whole of Africa with all its historical complexities, could make difficult reading, but McIlwaine's approach is clear and logical and never becomes confused," wrote Judith Fox in a review of Maps and Mapping of Africa for the Geographical Journal. Roy Bridges, writing in African Affairs, noted: "Africanists need maps but they cannot always easily discover whether the kinds of maps they want exist and, if they do, where they can be found. John McIlwaine's new Guide will certainly make life much easier even if it cannot solve all the problems."

McIlwaine told CA: "I don't think I have had ‘a life as a writer’: rather a life as a librarian and as a university teacher, with such writings as I have published growing naturally out of that context and out of my principal twin interests in bibliography/bibliographical control and preservation management. My activities in both of these areas were especially influenced by my particular interest in information and preservation in the context of the countries of Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, and of collections and resources relevant to the study of those countries retained within Europe and North America. I was fortunate enough to be able to make professional visits to some thirty countries in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean during my working life, and these undoubtedly informed my publications, as did the contacts with students from Asia and Africa who followed the course I taught for thirty-four years, ‘Oriental and African Bibliography.’ My 2006 IFLA manual on disaster planning was aimed particularly at the countries of the ‘developing world.’ My bibliographical work in general was intended to provide better access to sources that had been previously neglected or under-represented in existing finding aids."



Africa, fall, 1994, John Pinfold, review of Africa: A Guide to Reference Material.

African Affairs, January, 1995, David Blake, review of Africa, p. 143; October, 1997, A.H.M. Kirk-Greene, review of Writings on African Archives, p. 628; July, 1998, Roy Bridges, review of Maps and Mapping of Africa: A Resource Guide, p. 421.

Choice, October, 1993, G. Walsh, review of Africa, p. 268; November, 1996, review of Writings on African Archives, p. 432; April, 1998, review of Maps and Mapping of Africa, p. 1354.

Geographical Journal, March, 1997, review of Africa, p. 106; December, 2000, Judith Fox, review of Maps and Mapping of Africa, p. 374.

International Journal of African Historical Studies, summer, 1997, John K. Thornton, review of Writings on African Archives, p. 696.

Library Journal, November 15, 1993, Louise Leonard, review of Africa, p. 68.

Library Quarterly, April, 1984, John Wilkinson, review of Bibliography and Reading: A Festschrift in Honour of Ronald Staveley, p. 206.

Reference & Research Book News, September, 1993, review of Africa, p. 9.

Research in African Literatures, summer, 1997, Joseph S. Caruso, review of Writings on African Archives, p. 206.


Hans Zell Publishing, (February 8, 2008), overview of Africa.

H-Net Reviews, (February 6, 2008), Alfred Kagan, review of Africa.

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McIlwaine, John 1937- (John Hamish St. John McIlwaine)

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