Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies

The R. Sean O'Fahey Collection

Prof. R. Sean O’Fahey retired in June 2013, and donated his substantial collection of photocopies of Sudanese manuscripts to the Bergen University Library, to be housed by the Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. The collection is in the process of being catalogued, and will be brought online as soon as it is completed.

Ruins of the Mahdi tomb
Dag Hellesund

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Prof. O’Fahey started his work as a historian of the Sudan in the 1960s. In the following decades he was a central figure in the long-term collaboration between the University of Bergen and the University of Khartoum, and the National Records Office in Khartoum.

The O’Fahey collection contains much material that today is unavailable elsewhere. A common problem faced by African historians is that sources to African history (be that manuscript or more general works, printed matter etc.) is rendered at least partly unavailable due to lacking resources for conservation and adequate care. In other instances, war and natural disasters have destroyed the material completely. In either case, the unfortunate result is that copied collection held elsewhere becomes central to historical research. For the history of Sudan, the collection in Bergen is, in fact, unique.

The collection contains: 

  • Copies of Arabic manuscripts and printed books, mainly from the Sudan, but also other parts of Islamic Africa. This part of the collection contains more than 3000 manuscripts and printed texts (pamphlets, circulars).
  • Photographs of land documents from DarFur. 
  • Copies of manuscripts and printed works related to the Idrisiyya tradition. This collection has formed the basis of the published works on the Idrisyya tradition of the Sudan.