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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.
  • Tribute to Thomas Karis

    Thomas G. Karis, a former foreign service officer who became a leading historian of the South African liberation movement, died of natural causes on August 18 at the age of 97.
    Professor Karis was the chief author and editor of a four-volume bookseries, From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa 1882-1964, published in the 1970s. The numous interviews, political trial material, political documents, trade union documents and biographical files, which informed this book are contained in our collection A2675 KARIS-GERHART Collection of South African political materials, 1964-1990
    Please find the obituary written by Aleck Karis:

  • 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, the Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI), and the South African History Archive (SAHA), held a successful event, which took take place at Wits on the 24 August 2017.
  • 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.
  • 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.