Institute of Commonwealth Studies launches online archive of the papers of anti-apartheid campaigner Ruth First

Thursday 7 June 2012

Image of Ruth First courtesy of the Mayibuye ArchivesThe Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, today launched its online archive of the papers of the anti-apartheid campaigner Ruth First.

First, a prolific scholar and journalist, was assassinated in exile in Mozambique in 1982. The Institute of Commonwealth Studies has long held the complete set of First’s scholarly writings. They form a collection of outstanding historical interest. Digitised copies of a selection of these papers as well as interviews and numerous family photos provided by her relatives, are being made available free of charge on a new website, launched to commemorate the 30 years anniversary of her death.

The online archive was launched today at Senate House, University of London, home to the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. Dr Leo Zeilig, the Project Manager of the Digitisation project commented: “Today is a wonderful opportunity for many who knew Ruth First – including members of her family - to gather and commemorate her outstanding work as a journalist and scholar. We’re honoured to have present such eminent figures as Justice Albie Sachs to celebrate First’s contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle. Sachs himself spent many years, while in exile in London, working here at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies on ideas that would later form the basis of the South African Constitution. But for me, the most exciting aspect of the day is the inspiration and debate that First’s work is creating amongst the next generation of scholars, including the Institute of Commonwealth Studies’ own students. This is a fine testament to the continued relevance of her work to today’s world.” 

The project to digitise and make available this fascinating resource is being carried out by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies in collaboration with the University of the Western Cape - Robben Island Mayibuye Archives, and the Centro de Estudos Africanos, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Mozambique. The project is currently funded until December 2012 by the School of Advanced Study, of which the Institute of Commonwealth Studies is a member institute. The Institute is actively seeking external funding beyond this date to continue this work and to widen its scope.

Visit the Ruth First Papers archive at www.ruthfirstpapers.org.uk

Notes for Editors:

  1. For further information please contact Dee Burn at the School of Advanced Study at dee.burn@sas.ac.uk or +44 (0)20 7862 8670.
  2. The Ruth First Papers are the collected notes and writings of Ruth First, activist, campaigning journalist and scholar. The project aims to create and populate a digital archive of a selection of Ruth First’s writings held at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. It will consist of at least 5,000 pages, digitised and presented as academically rigorous clusters of material, and will electronically publish two of her books currently out of print. This resource will be freely accessible worldwide, accompanied by a website with secondary material including conference items and short academic essays about First’s life and work. The resource as a whole will represent a digital version of the Ruth First Resource Centre that was called for in the immediate aftermath of her assassination.  The Ruth First Papers project is based at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, in partnership with the University of the Western Cape - Robben Island Mayibuye Archives and the Centro de Estudos Africanos, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Mozambique. The collection is hosted on SAS-Space, the library service for the School of Advanced Study, University of London. The project (December 2011-November 2012) is funded by the School of Advanced Study.
    www.ruthfirstpapers.org.uk
  3. The Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS) is the only postgraduate academic institution in the UK devoted to the study of the Commonwealth. Founded in 1949, its purpose is to promote interdisciplinary and inter-regional research on the Commonwealth and its member nations in the fields of history, politics and other social sciences. Its areas of specialism include international development, governance, human rights, north-south relations and conflict and security. It is also home to the longest-running interdisciplinary and practice-oriented human rights MA programme in the UK. The Institute of Commonwealth Studies is a member institute of the School of Advanced Study, University of London.
    www.commonwealth.sas.ac.uk
  4. The School of Advanced Study at the University of London is the UK’s national centre for the facilitation and promotion of research in the humanities and social sciences. The School brings together the specialised scholarship and resources of ten prestigious research institutes to offer academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. The member institutes of the School are the Institutes of Advanced Legal Studies, Classical Studies, Commonwealth Studies, English Studies, Germanic & Romance Studies, Historical Research, Musical Research, Philosophy, Study of the Americas, and The Warburg Institute.
    www.sas.ac.uk