Papers of Howard Barrell

Scope and Content

Research material collected by Barrell for his DPhil thesis,comprising transcripts of interviews with ANC leaders and members, and documentsby or about the ANC which in Barrell's opinion are rare; with list of materialtaken from his bibliography.

Administrative / Biographical History

Howard Barrell worked as the Harare correspondent of South Africa's Weekly Mail(later the Mail and Guardian), 1985-1988. He was the paper's Political Editor,1998-2000 and its Editor, 2001-2002, though his family remained based in the United Kingdom. He subsequently became Editor of Johannesburg's Daily Mail andGuardian.

From [1989] to 1993 he collected interviews with leaders and members of theANC, including those involved with Umkonto we Sizwe, the movement's armed wing,for his doctoral thesis, Conscripts to their Age: AfricanNational Congress Operational Strategy, 1976-1986 (Oxford University;1993).

The African National Congress (ANC) was formed in 1912 in Bloemfontein topromote the freedoms, etc. of the African people in the face of diminishingrights in the recently formed Republic of South Africa.

In 1919 the ANC in theTransvaal began a campaign against the pass laws which required Africans outsidedemarcated areas to carry passes indicating their lawful presence indesignated white areas. Elsewhere, the ANC tried a number of methods of action,including strikes, non-violent protests and appeals to British leaders. However,the coming to power of the National Party in 1948 led to a new militancy andpopulism in the ANC, including the 1949 Programme of Action and the DefianceCampaign of the 1950s. Increased resistance was met with increasing force on thepart of the Government, and in 1960 the Anti Pass Campaign precipated theSharpeville Massacre. A year later the ANC launched an armed struggle againstthe Government. Its military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe carried out 200 acts ofsabotage in eighteen months. Consequently, in 1963, its leaders, includingNelson Mandela, were jailed.

During the 1970s and 1980s the ANC adopted a policyof working more covertly within South Africa whilst appealing for internationalsupport, which led to widespread economic sanctions. Strike action during the same period culminated in the 1976 Soweto Riots. The National Party consequently introduced token reforms. However, when the ANC eventually called on its supporters to make townships ungovernable, a state of emergency was declared, while an increasing climate of violence served to destabilise the country.

In the 1990s the ANC was unbanned and Nelson Mandela released by PresidentF.W. de Klerk. After his release, Mandela was elected President of the ANC, andfour years later (1994) became President of South Africa in the country's first freeelections. He was succeeded by fellow ANC member Thabo Mbeki in 1997.

Access Information

Bodleian reader's ticket required. Some interviews may be closed to access.Contact the library in the first instance.


Collection level description created by Paul Davidson, Bodleian Library ofCommonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House.

Other Finding Aids

The library holds a card index of all manuscript collections in its reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction or publication of papers without permission. Contact thelibrary in the first instance.