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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.

  • Non-Racial Sports History Project, Transvaal

    An important part of our history that has seriously been neglected is non-racial sports. This was a crucial facet of the anti-apartheid struggle and, curcially, was probably the most effective arena of independent and community-based sports in black communities. Moreover, non-racial sports was intrinsically linked to communities and their schools, and depended heavily on voluntarism for its enduring success.

    This project aims to recover, record, preserve and popularize this rich and multi-faceted history, which is reflected in the items of the collection which was now been deposited at Historical Papers.
  • Bob Hepple Papers
    The Papers of Professor Sir Bob Hepple (1934-2015) are now available for research at Historical Papers. The collection was deposited by Bob Hepple during his last visit. It covers Bob Hepple's account of the Rivonia trial, and it contains invaluable documents relating to the work of his father Alex Hepple. The collection is presently being digitised for online access. (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..."
  • Ronald Ngilima Photographs
    This collection contains the photographic archive of Ronald Ngilima, dating from the late 1940s to March 1960, continued by his son Torrance until around 1965.
    The approximately 5600 negatives were deposited at Historical Papers by Ronald Ngilima's grandson Farrell Ngilima and Sophie Feyder from the Leiden University in the Netherlands, who facilitated the digitisation of these negatives.
  • 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.