Diploma of Nelson Mandela

Scope and Content

Copy, in latin, of Diploma awarded to Mandela by the University of Oxford at aceremony at Buckingham Palace in 1996, and order of ceremony for his visit toOxford in 1997, including transcripts of the diploma in Latin and English.

Administrative / Biographical History

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born at Qunu, near Umtata, Transkei in 1918. His father,Henry Mgadla Mandela, was chief council to the acting paramount chief ofThembuland. When his father died, Mandela became the chief's ward and wasgroomed for the chieftainship. Starting a BA degree at Fort Hare, he wasexpelled for participation in a student strike in 1940, completing his courseby correspondence from Johannesburg before taking his articles of clerkship andenrolling for an LLB at the University of Witwatersrand.

Having joined the AfricanNational Congress (ANC), he helped found the ANC Youth League in 1944, becoming itsSecretary, 1948 and President, 1950. He was elected NationalVolunteer-in-Chief of the 1952 Defiance Campaign, for his part in which he wasgiven a suspended sentence and banning order confining him to Johannesburg forsix months. During this period, he restructured ANC branches into undergroundcells. By the same year, Mandela and Oliver Tambo (who had also been expelledfrom Fort Hare in 1940) had founded South Africa's first black law firm, whileMandela was elected the ANC's Transvaal President and Deputy Mational President.

In the 1950s, constant bannings forced him to resign officially from the ANC.At this time, his attention turned to analysing the struggles against the exploitation oflabour, the pass laws, the Government's Bantustan policy, and the segregationof open universities, while at the same time helping to conduct the defence(for himself and others) in the treason trial of 1956-1961. He was eventuallyacquitted. However, in 1960, after the Sharpeville massacre, the ANC was bannedand the organisation's military wing (Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK)) was born. UnderMandela's leadership, it conducted a campaign of sabotage against governmentand economic targets. Having left the country illegally in 1962 for military trainingin Algeria, and to arrange training for other members of the MK, he was arrestedon his return, convicted, and jailed for five years.

While in prison, hewas charged, in the Rivonia trial, with sabotage, and his sentence changed tolife. Having spoken out in the 1950s against the idea of Bantu education,he made Robben Island, where he was imprisoned, a centre for learning, taking acentral role in organised political education classes. Through the 1970s and1980s he refused offers of freedom from the Government in return for renouncingviolence, etc., though on his release on 11th February 1990, he agreed to thesuspension of armed struggle.

After his release, he was elected Deputy President ofthe ANC, 1990-1991 and President, 1991-1997. He served as President of SouthAfrica, 1994-1999, before retiring from public life to return to his birthplace inTranskei.

Mandela holds honorary degrees from various UK universities and was madeHonorary QC, 2000. He was given the Jawaharlal Nehru Award, India, 1979, theSimon Bolivar Prize, UNESCO, 1983, the Sakharov Prize, 1988, and the Nobel PeacePrize (with F.W. De Klerk), 1993. He is the author of Noeasy walk to freedom. articles, speeches and trial addresses, ed. RuthFirst (London, Heinemann, 1965) and Long Walk to Freedom(London, Little, Brown, 1994). He has been married twice, to Winnie Mandela (marriage dissolved, 1996), with whomhe had two daughters, and in 1998 to Graca, widow of Samora Machel.

Conditions Governing Access

Bodleian reader's ticket required.


Collection level description created by Paul Davidson, Bodleian Library of Commonwealth 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 personal papers without permission. Contact the library in the first instance.

Related Material

War on Want jigsaws, one with an artist'simpression of Nelson Mandela against a background of the ANC flag, the otherof Winnie Mandela (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 2296).