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HI 399 - Special Topics: Southern Africa


This guide is designed to support the class research paper on a topic related to Southern Africa. For further assistance, visit the Reference Desk at Geisel Library or contact the History liaison librarian.


Background Information

Before delving into books and journal articles, you may wish to consult reference sources in order to learn the basic facts about people, places or events. Reference materials can provide background information on your topic and help you identify keywords for further searching. Some reference resources include bibliographies at the ends of each entry or volume, which will point you to additional books and journal articles worth exploring.

African Biographical Dictionary
     Ref DT18 .B76

Country Watch
     Find the Country Review for the country you are studying.

Encyclopedia of Africa South of the Sahara (4 vols.)
     Ref DT351 .E53

Encyclopedia of African History
     Ref DT20 .E53 (print version, 3 vols.)

New Encyclopedia of Africa
     In Gale Virtual Reference Center



Geisel Library catalog
To find relevant books, try both Keyword and Subject searches in the library catalog. Start by doing a Keyword search on the people, places, events, or topics that you intend to research. When you find useful books, click on the Subject Headings in their catalog records to identify additional books on the same topic. Watch for the red e-book icon in your search results, which indicates that the book can be read online in the Ebrary database. Ebrary includes a number of scholarly books on the nations of southern Africa.

You may also want to conduct Subject searches on the Subject Headings below that relate to your topic. This may uncover books that are broader in scope but which contain briefer discussions of the people and events of interest.

  • Africa — History Sources
  • Africa, Southern — History
  • Africa, Southern — Politics and Government
  • Apartheid — South Africa
  • [Country Name] — History
  • [Country Name] — Politics and Government
  • Indigenous Peoples — South Africa
  • South Africa — Economic Conditions
  • South Africa — Foreign Relations - United States
  • South Africa — History
  • South Africa - Politics and Government
  • South Africa — Race Relations
  • South African War, 1899–1902

By searching WorldCat, you can identify relevant books owned by other colleges and have them delivered to Geisel Library for your use. WorldCat will be essential to your research since the Geisel Library collection is not extensive in the field of African studies. Try searching on the same keywords you used in the catalog, or any of the Subject Headings above. Here are some examples of keyword searches:

  • South Africa AND women AND rights
  • Zimbabwe AND "land reform"
  • Namibia AND (independence OR freedom)
  • Africa* AND conservation AND wildlife
  • "Dutch East India Company" AND Africa*
  • South Africa* AND (missionary OR missionaries)

To locate primary sources, combine keyword searches on your topic with Subject searches on terms such as sources, memoirs, diaries, correspondence, papers, personal narratives, or pictorial works. These words will typically appear in the subject headings of primary sources.

When you identify a relevant book in WorldCat, you can click on the "Request via Interlibrary Loan" link in its WorldCat record. Books requested through WorldCat are usually delivered to Geisel Library in 7–10 days. You will be emailed when your book arrives, and you can check it out for a specified borrowing period.


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Scholarly Journals

As with the book catalogs, search the journal databases using keywords related to your topic, combining concepts together using the Boolean AND and OR operators. Once you find relevant articles, examine their subject headings and conduct Subject searches on the ones that seem potentially fruitful. Be sure to read the bibliographies of articles to identify additional sources worth tracking down.

If you find a useful article for which no full-text link is available, click on the WebBridge icon to determine whether the journal is available in Geisel Library or in full-text via another database. If the article isn't available, consider clicking on the Interlibrary Loan link to request a PDF copy of the article from another library. Within a week, you should receive an email indicating that the article is available to access.

Historical Abstracts
The best place to start for journal articles about world history. Use the Historical Period From/To limiter (down below the full text limiter checkboxes) to specify your time period of interest.

Search here for full-text articles from a number of important journals in the areas of African history and art. Several highly useful journals are available in this database, including the African Studies Review, Journal of African History, Journal of Modern African Studies, and Journal of Southern African Studies.    User Guide

Academic Search Premier
This multi-disciplinary database is an excellent starting point for finding journal articles on a wide range of topics, including history.

Arts & Humanities Citation Index  (AHSearch)
This index provides citations and abstracts to more than 1,300 of the most significant journals in the arts and humanities.

Historical Newspapers

Newspaper articles offer firsthand perspectives on major developments in world history. Articles written at the time of historical events can be regarded as primary source material. The two databases below contain full historical runs of two major English-language newspapers. The entire full-text of these newspapers can be searched and read.

New York Times — Historical
This database provides full-text access to every article in the New York Times, from 1851 to four years ago.    User Guide

Times of London Digital Archive
This database provides full-text access to every issue of The Times (London) newspaper from 1785 through 1985, except for Sunday editions.


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Selected Websites

These websites were handpicked for the authoritative nature of their content. Some of the websites below contain primary source material. For help on how to find and use primary sources, see the library's guide to primary source documents. To search for websites or documents from a particular country, use the Advanced Search in Google and limit the Region to the desired country.

Africa South of the Sahara:  Selected Internet Resources (Stanford Univ.)
A well-maintained gateway to prominent websites about Africa, which can be browsed by country or topic.

African National Congress
This large online archive contains speeches, statements, conference documents, and articles related to the history of South Africa and the ANC. The website also provides links to documents from the United Nations and various countries advocating an end to apartheid.

African Union
The primary intergovernmental body in Africa. The organization's website includes the text of treaties, conventions, declarations by its Assembly and Executive Council, speeches, and an annual report of its activities.

Digital Innovation South Africa
A digital archive of documents related to the socio-political history of South Africa from 1950 through the first democratic elections in 1994. You can do a keyword search or browse the collection by type of document, such as interviews, letters, memos, pamphlets, policy documents, and speeches.

Google Book Project
A growing collection of millions of digitized books. Books not under copyright (including most published before 1922, and many published in other countries) can be read in their entirety, making this website a great resource for primary source material.

Internet African History Sourcebook
This website of primary source documents includes numerous links to transcribed texts, organized loosely by time period and country. There are materials related to Southern Africa under the "European Imperialism", "Fight for Independence", and "Modern Africa" categories.

Perspectives:  The South African War
A collection of original and contemporary sources on the South African (Boer) War, including lengthy memoirs and historical accounts written shortly after the war's conclusion.

South African History Online
This project is intended to present an accurate and inclusive picture of South Africa's history and cultural heritage. It consists of encyclopedic articles about people, places, events, and aspects of South African culture, plus an online library of primary sources such as speeches, letters, government documents, and articles.

Southern African Development Community
This organization was chartered to coordinate development initiatives and promote cooperation on economic and security issues among the countries of southern Africa. Their website contains documents and reports on their recent activities.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report
This major governmental report (released in 2003) passed judgment upon the crimes against human rights committed during the apartheid era and the struggle for liberation. For documents compiled during the preparation of this final report, including witness testimonies and case studies, see the Traces of Truth website.


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Citing Sources

For assistance with formatting your citations in Chicago style, consult the University of Wisconsin's online guide or ask for the Chicago Manual of Style (Ready Ref Z253 .U69) at the library's reference desk.


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Book cover image for Politics in Southern Africa

Poppy Fry

Library Liaison
Jeff Waller

Background Information
Selected Websites
Citing Sources

Subject Guide