In South African history writing circles, quite possibly the most disturbing development over the last few months has been the fire at the University of Cape Town and the partial destruction of the African Studies archives. Many words have since been written about the fire, the loss and the state of the archives in South Africa. Our lead essay for this issue, written by Clare Larkin (“The University College of the North, Student Politics and the National Union of South African Students, 1960-1968”), is based on research in the Special Collections of the Jagger Library at the University of Cape Town. The loss of the archive reminds us of our fragile connections with the past, or, more precisely, a complex past. Larkin’s lead essay focuses on student politics in the 1960s, shortly before the revival of resistance to apartheid that came with the emergence of Black Consciousness, the growing prominence of Steve Biko and Ric Turner as critical voices in South African politics and society, and the resurgence of a powerful labour movement in Durban.
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