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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.


    Anna Cunningham was instrumental in setting up the Department of Manuscripts in the William Cullen Library, which would later become the Historical Papers Research Archive.

    She died on the 18 June 2015 after a long illness.
  • 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..."
  • ADVANCE, 1952-1954
    The weekly newspaper "Advance" is now online!
    The newspaper was the successor to the "Guardian", and was published under the name "Advance" from November 1952 to October 1954. It later changed the name to "New Age", and after its banning was published as "Spark".
  • T.D. Mweli Skota Papers available ONLINE
    The Papers of T.D. Mweli Skota are now available on our website, including copies of "The African Yearly Register: Being an Illustrated National Biographical Dictionary (Who's Who) of Black Folks in Africa", which he compiled, edited and published in 1930. Skota was a politician, as much as he was a business man, religious leader and publisher.
  • More digitised collections online!
    The Historical Papers Research Archive has published more online collections, some of which have been used extensively by researchers in the past.

    One such collection are the papers of Colin Goodman, who was the Chief Housing Engineer in the Johannesburg City Council. The collection contains photographs and building plans relating to the large construction activities overseen by the City Council in Soweto in the 1970s.

  • Digitised collections of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa
    We have recently embarked on digitising collections from the archive of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, of which Historical Papers is the official repository. 

    Picture above: Bishops Court, Cape Town, Painting by Tinus de Jongh.
    Bishops Court is the official residence of the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa.