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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 3400 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.

We continue building up our web-based delivery of digitized resources on this platform as well as 'AtoM', an acronymn for Access to Memory, which is an archival description application that is based on International Council of Archives (ICA) standards. 

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.
  • The World of Nat Nakasa now digital!
    The Nathaniel Nakasa Papers have been digitised and are now available on the Historical Papers website. Nat Nakasa was a journalist with the DRUM magazine, a writer of short stories and first editor of "The Classic" magazine.
  • Archives Colloquium

    Historical Papers, together with the Wits History Workshop, Section 27 and the Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI), has been instrumental in organising this event, which will take place at Wits on the 24 August 2017.
  • Tribute to Joel Joffe - 1932-2017

    Joel Joffe died on the 18 June 2017 at his home in England. Having defended Nelson Mandela and 9 Others during the Rivonia trial in 1963-64, he left South Africa shortly after the trial, with some of the original trial papers, including Nelson Mandela's handwritten notes for the trial. He attended to the safekeeping of the papers in the UK and later returned them to Arthur Chaskalson and Geoff Budlender at the Legal Resources Centre. The papers were deposited at Historical Papers in March 1996.
  • 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. Permission to consult this collection needs to be obtained from the Office of SADTU.
  • Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), records
    These records include documents, photographs and publications relating to the formation of the PAC and the trial of Robert Sobukwe and other leaders of the PAC in 1960.