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The Historical Papers research archive, situated in the William Cullen Library, was established in 1966. We are a friendly, vastly used, valued and popular service as well as unique and accessible hub for human rights research serving civil society, scholars and researchers. 

Historical Papers is one of the largest and most comprehensive independent archives in Southern Africa. We house over 3300 collections of historical, political and cultural importance, encompassing the mid 17th Century to the Present.

Our primary aim is to serve the broader community as well as the university and to transform archives into accessible centres for research. Included are the records of many human rights NGOs, trade unions, labour federations, political parties, women's organisations, churches and church bodies, and the papers of human rights activists. We are also home to a huge volume of political trials, photographs, press clippings, oral interviews, and material collected by several research institutions and individual researchers.

With generous funding from the Atlantic Philanthropies Foundation we are continually building up our web-based delivery of digitized resources. 

Download FOSATU bookDownload IntroductionDownload Chapter 1Download Chapter 2Download Chapter 3Download Chapter 4 On the 17 February 2011 Historical Papers and Museum Africa jointly held the opening of the FOSATU exhibition and the book launch of 'The future is in the Hands of the Workers' A History of FOSATU'. You can now download the book for FREE.

  • Rand Mining Maps ONLINE!
    Selected maps of mining activities on the Rand at the beginning of the 1900s are now available only. They originate from the James Humphreys Mining Papers, which is held at Historical Papers.
  • Collection of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU)
    Historical Papers is pleased to announce that the records of SADTU are now available for researchers. Please note that permission to consult this collection needs to be obtained from the Office of SADTU.
  • Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane
    This collection contains the papers of Archbishop Ndungane and forms part of the Archive of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa. They relate to his activities as Bishop of Kimberley and Kuruman, but more so on his time as the Archbishop of Cape Town from 1996-2008.
  • Patrick Lewis collection ONLINE!
    The Papers of Patrick Lewis, City Councillor and former Mayor of Johannesburg, have been fully digitised and are now online.
    The collection provides an insight into the Johannesburg Council's politics and race relations, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s.
    The above map shows the envisaged development of the Johannesburg Urban Motorways, known as the M1 and M2

  • Bob Hepple Papers are now digital!
    The Papers of Professor Sir Bob Hepple (1934-2015) have been digitised and are now available online. The collection contains his account of the Rivonia trial, as well as invaluable documents relating to the work of his father Alex Hepple and the Labour Party.  (Photo: Rivonia Trial 1963)
  • In the Doldrums: Archival Institutions in South Africa

    By Michele Pickover,
    Principal Curator: Historical Papers Research Archive

    "Archives are fundamentally political in nature and as such are mediated sites of power, ideology and memory..."