Introduction to South African History

Spring 2013

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-121  |  History, as HIST-283; Sean Redding (Section 01)

Questions about research in this course? Contact Dunstan C. McNutt.

  • Overview
  • Databases
  • Reference
  • Primary Sources


Once you have some background information on your object (see the "Reference Tab" for potential sources), try searching the 5 College Catalog for relevant books. You might start by using one of the following sets of subject keywords, and then narrowing down with more specific topics:

  • South Africa History
  • Afrikaners
  • Apartheid
  • Anti-Apartheid
  • South Africa Foreign Relations 
  • South African War 1899-1902 [for Anglo-Boer War]

See the "Primary Sources" tab for sub-headings that can be used in the catalog for collections of documents.

Databases: Find articles, book chapters, e-books

Historical Abstracts with Full Text (1955 to present)
Scholarly literature about world history since 1450 (excluding the United States and Canada).

African Writers Series
Complete texts of the Heinemann's African Writers Series.

FBIS: Federal Broadcast Information Service Daily Reports (1974-1996)
News in translation (by the CIA) from radio, television, and newspapers around the world.

Discover: Start here for books, articles & more
Simultaneously search research databases plus the Five Colleges Libraries Catalog to find full-text articles, books and more.


Encyclopedia of African HistoryNew York: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005. (AC Frost Reference / DT 20 .E53 2005)

Encyclopedia of South Africa. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2011. (AC Frost Reference / DT 1714 .E53 2011)

Primary Sources


Digital resources and data in three major content areas: African Cultural Heritage Sites and Landscapes, The African Plants Initiative and Struggles for Freedom in Southern Africa.

SALDRU (1975-2000)
Archival news clippings from Southern Africa digitized as .pdf files. Over 1 million clippings, arranged into broad subject areas.

Historical Newspapers (ProQuest) 
Combined search of the historic Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post.


From Protest to Challenge: a Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa, 1882-1990. Hoover Institution Publications 89, 122-123, 161. Stanford, Calif: Hoover Institution Press, 1972. (AC Frost Reserves: DT 763 .F73)

Williams, John A. From the South African Past: Narratives, Documents, and Debates. Sources in Modern History Series. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. (AC Frost Reserves: DT 1709 .W55 1977)


Scholars and publishers compile collections of primary sources that can be found in library catalogs, such as the Amherst catalog, the Five Colleges catalog, or WorldCat. Examples include published manuscripts, diaries, or letters of an individual (Letters from Robben Island : A selection of Ahmed Kathrada's prison correspondence, 1964-1989), or sources related to a particular topic (Witnesses to war : personal documents of the Anglo-Boer War from the collections of the South African Library). These can be found in the catalog by searching for a topic, and narrowing down using the following subject keywords:

  • Archival Resources
  • Archives
  • Correspondence [note: use this if you are looking for letters]
  • Diaries
  • Interviews
  • Notebooks, sketchbooks
  • Personal narratives
  • Photographs
  • Sources
  • Speeches

Click here for more tips on using the catalog to find primary sources (from Frost Library's Primary Sources Research Guide).