Data Spotlight: Country Studies

Today we’ll be sharing our third data spotlight showcase! In this series, we archive some socially or historically important data on the permaweb, preventing it from ever being lost. Through this process, we will continually build up a hand-curated archive of human history and knowledge, permanently archived for future generations.

The data in the spotlight this week is a series of excellent country and regional studies, originally published by the US Library of Congress Federal Research Division. From Ghana to Bolivia and beyond, these are fascinating long-form research reports cover a vast range of topics, from nations’ societal and government structure, to their languages, criminal justice systems, and religions.

We hope you’re just as excited to dive into these tomes as I was — I’ll share a few interesting tidbits that I encountered to get your ideas flowing!

Non-Existent Countries

The books contain several reports on now non-existent countries, from Zaire to the Soviet Union

These country and regional studies are in themselves fascinating historical resources. Several of the books cover countries that no longer exist today. These examples include Yugoslavia (dissolved into multiple nations over several years), East Germany (unified with West Germany into modern-day Germany), Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Czechoslovakia (peacefully disbanded into the Czech and Slovak Republics), and of course, the Soviet Union (dramatically dissolved into fifteen independent nations).

I personally find these very interesting, as with hindsight we can start to unpick how much of these nations’ dissolution and downfalls might have been predicted ahead of time.

I would heartily recommend taking some time to explore the reports on ex-countries specifically — remember, they’re all very layman-accessible and are easy to skip around topics that pique your personal interest!

North Korea's Media

As a project dedicated to the freedom of information between people and across time, we naturally have to highlight discussions of censorship and information control in the collections we preserve.

The North Korea country study discusses the regime’s restriction of media and a dire lack of freedom of information (Chapter 4, ‘The Media’ section). Combined with the powerful propaganda published by the government itself, the passage paints a gloomy picture of North Korean life.

Jamaica's Criminal Justice System

Rather than a country study like most of the other books, the Islands of the Commonwealth Caribbean study is a regional one, and was published in 1989. This study therefore gives an interesting overview of, for example, Jamaica’s first decades of life as an independent nation since 1962.

The Criminal Justice System section (Chapter 2) is particularly interesting to me. This section touches on the lasting impact in Jamaica of the colonial British legal code, and the remarkable changes from those traditions as Jamaica constructs its own unique criminal and judicial processes. For instance, the establishment of a specialised Gun Court in 1974 to deal with firearms cases, and the suspension (and then reinstatement) of the death penalty.

East Germany's Longevity

The East Germany country study edition we have archived was published in 1988, just a few very short years before the fall of East Germany and the formation of a (re)unified Germany in 1990.

I personally find the discussion of the state’s influence on news very interesting, which can be found in the section titled “The Party and The Media’ (Chapter 4). The motives and mechanisms of information control in East Germany and in North Korea are worth comparing, especially the tight control of citizens’ access to ‘Western media’.

Why ePub format?

We believe these books in ePub format offer a good compromise between the pure, unadulterated original material, and a format that the general public can easily can conveniently access. The Library of Congress itself offers a nice range of formats for this collection, including PDFs, JPEGs of specific pages in multiple resolutions, pure text documents, and of course, ePubs. EPubs offer a relatively low file size (which is a positive thing for our databases!) while still including relevant images such as maps and diagrams, all accessible in an open, non-proprietary format that many people can easily access.

If you’re not sure how to view ePubs on your device, here are some options for you:

Android — Many options are available on the Google Play Store, including big names like the Amazon Kindle app, and Google Books.

iOS — The iBooks app comes as standard, but many prefer the more featureful Marvin available on the App Store.

MacOS — Just as with iOS, ePubs can be accessed with the native iBooks app on MacOS.

Windows — Many recommend the Icecream ebook reader for an unusual, more traditionally ‘book-like’ reading experience. As with Linux, FBReader is also highly recommended by online reviews, which you might prefer for a simpler appearance.

Linux  FBReader is highly recommended by the Linux community — it’s open source, lightweight, and simple.

As always, thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please consider following us on Medium, and over on Twitter! Or, drop me an email ( with an interesting open data or public domain dataset you’d like us to perma-archive (for free!) or include in a future ‘data spotlight’ blog.

To learn more about the Decentralised Public Library’s mission and motivations, please check out our opening blog post here.

India Raybould

List of Permaweb URLs to the LOC’s Country and Regional Studies:

Albania: A Country Study, 1994:

Algeria: A Country Study, 1994:

Angola: A Country Study, 1991:

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia: Country Studies, 1995:

Austria: A Country Study, 1994:

Bangladesh: A Country Study, 1989:

Belarus and Moldova: Country Studies, 1995:

Bolivia: A Country Study, 1991:

Brazil: A Country Study, 1998:

Bulgaria: A Country Study, 1993:

Cambodia: A Country Study, 1990:

Chad: A Country Study, 1990:

Chile: A Country Study, 1994:

China: A Country Study, 1988:

Colombia: A Country Study, 2010:

Cote d’Ivoire: A Country Study, 1991:

Cuba: A Country Study, 2002:

Cyprus: A Country Study, 1993:

Czechoslovakia: A Country Study, 1989:

Dominican Republic and Haiti: Country Studies, 2001:

East Germany: A Country Study, 1988:

Ecuador: A Country Study, 1991:

Egypt: A Country Study, 1991:

El Salvador: A Country Study, 1990:

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania: Country Studies, 1996:

Ethiopia: A Country Study, 1993:

Finland: A Country Study, 1990:

Germany: A Country Study, 1996 (HTML format due to large file size):

Ghana: A Country Study, 1995:

Guyana and Belize: Country Studies, 1993:

Honduras: A Country Study, 1995:

Hungary: A Country Study, 1990:

India: A Country Study, 1996:

Indian Ocean: Five Island Countries, 1995:

Indonesia: A Country Study, 2011:

Iran: A Country Study, 1990:

Iraq: A Country Study, 1990:

Islands of the Commonwealth Caribbean: A Regional Study, 1989:

Israel: A Country Study, 1990:

Japan: A Country Study, 1992:

Jordan: A Country Study, 1991:

Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan: Country Studies, 1997:

Laos: A Country Study, 1995:

Lebanon: A Country Study, 1989:

Libya: A Country Study, 1989:

Mauritania: A Country Study, 1990:

Mexico: A Country Study, 1997:

Mongolia: A Country Study, 1991:

Nepal and Bhutan: Country Studies, 1993:

Nicaragua: A Country Study, 1994:

North Korea: A Country Study, 2008:

Pakistan: A Country Study, 1995:

Panama: A Country Study, 1989:

Paraguay: A Country Study, 1990:

Persian Gulf States: Country Studies, 1994:

Peru: A Country Study, 1993:

Philippines: A Country Study, 1993:

Poland: A Country Study, 1994:

Portugal: A Country Study, 1993:

Romania: A Country Study, 1991:

Russia: A Country Study, 1998:

Saudi Arabia: A Country Study, 1993:

Singapore: A Country Study, 1991:

Somalia: A Country Study, 1993:

South Africa: A Country Study, 1997:

South Korea: A Country Study, 1992:

Soviet Union: A Country Study, 1991:

Note: We are not yet able to archive the Soviet Union ebook on the permaweb, given it’s uniquely large size. As soon as the planned software updates are finalised, we will archive this document!

Spain: A Country Study, 1990:

Sri Lanka: A Country Study, 1990:

Syria: A Country Study, 1988:

Thailand: A Country Study, 1989:

Turkey: A Country Study, 1996:

Uganda: A Country Study, 1992:

Uruguay: A Country Study, 1992:

Venezuela: A Country Study, 1993:

Vietnam: A Country Study, 1989:

Yugoslavia: A Country Study, 1992:

Zaire: A Country Study, 1994:

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