HIRSON, Baruch (1921-1999)

Scope and Content

Papers of Baruch Hirson, 1960-1999; chiefly comprising thirty six boxes of research notes including manuscript notes, typescript drafts and photocopies, arranged by subject on topics including South African politics, trade unions, racism, imperialism, industry and economics. The collection also includes seminar papers by Hirson given at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies; photocopies of correspondence on Hirson's appointment as a Lecturer in the Department of Physics at the University of the Witwatersrand, 1960; photocopy of memoranda written by Dennis Goldberg to the South African Commission of Inquiry into the Penal System from political prisoners in Pretoria Local prison, [1974]; photocopies of material on the Soweto riots, 1976, collected by Hirson while working on his book Year of Fire, year of Ash: the Soweto revolt; roots of a revolution (1979), including press cuttings, published and unpublished papers on the riots, and material produced by the Soweto Students' Representative Council and other groups including the African National Congress (ANC), Black Peoples Convention, Cape Town University Students' Representative Council, the Black Parents Association, the University of Natal Medical Students' Representative Council and the National Union of South African Students.

Administrative / Biographical History

Baruch Hirson was born at Doornfontein near Johannesburg, South Africa on 10 December 1921, the son of a Jewish electrician. Between 1944 and 1946 he worked as the political organiser for the Workers' International League, and subsequently he combined his politics with an academic career as a physicist at the University of the Witwatersrand. Towards the end of the 1950s he joined the Congress of Democrats, the white arm of the African National Congress-led congress alliance. Highly critical of its leadership and policies, with other disaffected left-wing congress activists Hirson formed the Socialist League of Africa just before the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, and later the National Committee for Liberation/African Resistance Movement (ARM). The ARM was broken in 1964, and Hirson and other leading activists arrested and imprisoned for nine years. After his release he moved to Britain, he taught physics at Bradford and Middlesex Universities, and devoted much of his time to history and the publication of Searchlight South Africa (1988-1995), a left-wing analysis of South African politics. He wrote several books or aspects of South African history and an autobiography, Revolutions in my Life (1995). He died in London on 3 October 1999.


Original order

Access Information

Open although advance notice should be given. Access to individual items may be restricted under the Data Protection Act or the Freedom of Information Act.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued to file and item level (see link to repository catalogue).

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Alan Kucia as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project. Revised by Sarah Drewery.

Conditions Governing Use

A photocopying service is available, at the discretion of the Library staff. Copies are supplied solely for research or private study. Requests to publish, or quote from original material should be submitted to the Information Resources Manager.

Custodial History

The first accession of 1 box of material was deposited at ICS by Baruch Hirson, date unknown. A futher 36 boxes of his reasearch files were deposited by the family after his death in 1999.

Related Material

University of Cape Town: Students' Representative Council papers on South African disturbances, 1976 (ICS 81); There are also several other collections at ICS given or deposited by Baruch Hirson, including the papers of H M Basner (ICS 88); A L Saffery (ICS 69); Josie Palmer (ICS 57) and Neil Alcock (ICS 3).

Location of Originals

There is a list of the Soweto riots material in the ISC Library.