South African History Online and the University of York Collaborative Project

Students studying with Allison Drew (author) and David Attwell have been collaborating with online NGO

University of York students studying with Professor David Attwell and Professor Allison Drew have had the exciting experience of working collaboratively with South African History Online (SAHO) in a ‘virtual internship’ programme.

SAHO, a dynamic online non-profit NGO launched by internationally-renowned photographer Omar Badsha, has built a massive online encyclopaedia of South African history, politics, society, arts and culture. SAHO’s website provides an invaluable resource for students, teachers and research scholars.

The site offers classroom resources for different school years – a virtual school outreach programme, biographies, timelines, information about key South African sites and an online media library offering books, theses and articles. Its blog, ‘History Matters’, offers a range of perspectives from different writers and activists on contemporary and historical issues. It even has its own You Tube site at

In its own words, SAHO aims ‘to promote the study and teaching of history and to make knowledge accessible’. To this end it develops collaborative partnerships with educational institutions, local history projects, heritage projects, museums and archives.

As part of this broad initiative, during Autumn 2014 University of York students on the course ‘“Race”, nationhood and the literary imaginary in South Africa’ ˗ the English-Politics bridge course jointly taught by David Attwell and Allison Drew ˗ benefited from productive Skype discussions with SAHO researcher Jeeva Rajgopaul. During Spring 2015, students taking Allison Drew’s module ‘Power and Democracy in South African Politics’ gained important insights into the research process from discussions with SAHO CEO Omar Badsha, who provided introductions to South African political activists. Their essays will be part of SAHO’s literature, politics and history features.

David Attwell comments, ‘South African History Online is a model of progressive research and publishing. Its example shows that transformation is not about symbolic gestures, but about building democracy by changing the basis of knowledge. The University of York is proud to be associated with it, and delighted that our students have been welcomed into it.’

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