In this paper I will discuss key parameters of the politics of digitisation within a broader historical and global context with the aim to encourage further debate on its implications for historical research. In the first part, I will outline the global dimensions of the politics of digital cultural heritage with a particular focus on developments within and between Europe and Africa, framed within the broader context of the politics of heritage and its preservation and recent debates about ‘postcolonial digital humanities’. In the second part, I will discuss the history and current state of digitisation in Europe and Africa. Here I will partly draw upon the web archive of the IFLA/Unesco Directory of Digitised Library Collections (2002-2006) and recent global and European digitisation surveys. The paper will conclude by highlighting the paradoxical situation we currently face with regard to digitisation and the state of ‘memory’ in both the global North and South.