Written records refers to the history which has been written down or documented. This is the most common and modern source of history as it cuts across different boundaries. It is the principle source of materials for historians in east Africa as they have been valuable for the past 200 years or less.The written records are grouped into two the primary sources and secondary sources as for the historians it is better to first deal with the secondary source and then handle the primary sources.
Written records include: Books, letters, magazines, newspapers, minutes of meetings, official and private documents, official publications by the governments and parliaments of the colonial powers, peace treaties and other agreements concluded by the great powers between one another and African chiefs, legislative acts, edicts, dispatches of the colonial administration, documents from African companies and individual merchants, letters etc.
It also include books written by contemporaries, produced by aliens, narrative of explores, reminiscences of soldiers, missionaries or colonial officials, the impressionistic sung of the journalists and the imaginative reconstruction of the novelists. The written records can easily be accessed in the libraries, schools, colleges, archives and in some offices. The following are the disadvantages of Written records:-
(1) It is expensive. Written records require a lot of time and resources to prepare, this makes them expensive to produce as compared to oral tradition. Also purchasing the written material is very costly.
(2) Can easily be distorted or misunderstood. As written records are in most cases written in English which recipients might easily misunderstand. Also there might be distortion in the sense that writers might be biased when writing or they might have different approaches on to the same issue.
(3) Applicable to educated people only. Written records are limited to a few people in a society. As the people who do not know how to read and write will not benefit from this source of history as he/she will not understand what has been written. This therefore makes it limited to a given section of people.
(4) Based mainly on the writer’s opinion. Many writers are biased in the sense that they write in their favour of example Eurocentric and Afro centric ideas.
(5) Historians cannot be expected to come to the same conclusion, thistherefore means that written records are continuously rewritten and revised Unless the historian is able to sort out relevant information many written records contain some information that might be irrelevant to the historian there by wasting a lot of time in a given source. Generally, it is very difficult to understand history unless you understand the historian himself first.