fonds CAP - Records of the Capricorn Africa Society

Identity area

Reference code



Records of the Capricorn Africa Society


  • 1948-1963 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.42 cubic metres

21 boxes

Context area

Name of creator


Administrative history

The Capricorn Africa Society was founded in 1948 by a group interested in solving the constitutional, political and racial problems of East and Central Africa. It was not a political party, but it did have the aim of establishing an electoral system acceptable to all races in Kenya, Tanganyika, the Rhodesias and Nyasaland, based on restricted, qualitative franchise.

The Society’s aims were stated in the Capricorn Declaration in 1952. In 1954, the Society published its manifesto which was widely publicised by its president, David Stirling. This culminated in the 1956 Salima Convention in Nyasaland (modern Malawi), where the Society and its supporters formulated the Capricorn Contract.

From this point onwards however, the group began to weaken as African members began to join the more militant nationalist organisations. Increasing polarisation between black and white communities also dented the group's impact. Campaigns supporting black political detainees, such as Leopold Takawira, helped alienate whites in Southern Rhodesia. The group campaigned for the establishment of self-government in the Northern Territories and the introduction of a Bill of Rights.

Increasingly the Society concentrated its efforts on educational and welfare projects, such as student hostels in the U.K. and a mobile health unit in Southern Rhodesia. In 1956 the Society had established the charitable Capricorn Africa Trust, and it was through this Trust that Zebra House Ltd, later Zebra Housing Association, was founded as a charity to help house African students studying in London. The Society also played an important role in the establishment of Ranche House College, an adult education institute in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia.

The Capricorn Africa Society was dissolved in 1963 although the Capricorn Africa Trust continues to operate as a registered charity supporting projects in Africa and related work in the UK.

Archival history

The papers mostly derive from the Society's London Office but there are some from its Southern Rhodesian branch in Salisbury. Records of the Kenyan and Tanganyikan headquarters were destroyed by fire.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The archive was donated to the Borthwick Institute c.1975.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Organisational files of the London office and Colonel David Stirling's personal files, including London minutes and agenda, minutes of the East African Branch, and minutes of the Capricorn Africa Trust; London Committee's correspondence with the Society's Tanganyika and Salisbury branches; correspondence regarding the Takawira defence, American supporters of the Society, African students in Britain, the establishment of the Rhodesian 'College of Citizenship' (Ranche House), atrocities in the Congo, the YMCA, the Women's Institute, and the Zebra club; correspondence of the London Chairman, Jonathan Lewis; financial records and correspondence; papers relating to the Salima Convention, including agenda, notes, and drafts of the Capricorn Contract; article and other items by Sir John Slessor; cuttings from the British, Central African and East African Press; National Democratic Party circulars.

Papers, relating almost exclusively to the Capricorn Africa Society, by individuals including L.B. Greaves, O.B.E. (1 file and 2 tape recordings), H. Crookenden. and Mrs J Bartosik.

Papers from the Southern Rhodesian Branches, including minutes and agenda of committees; reports and circulars; accounts and financial matters; correspondence including that with the London Office; publications and papers from the Capricorn Convention Salisbury, 1960; and newspaper reports.


Further deposits are not expected.

System of arrangement

Files were arranged into three main series by the Centre for South African Studies The organisational files are in the 1-199 series; the papers of individuals are in the 200-299 series, and the Southern Rhodesia papers are in the 300-399 series.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws.

Conditions governing reproduction

Permission to publish or quote from the collection must be obtained from the Zebra Trust.

A reprographics service is available to researchers. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute, University of York, terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Includes two audio tapes and 20 microfilm reels. Access to audiovisual material may be restricted due to technical requirements, please contact the Borthwick Institute for more information.

Finding aids

A typescript finding aid, at collection level, is available for consultation in the searchroom of the Borthwick Institute.

See also A. Ross, 'A provisional index of the Capricorn Africa Society files held in the University of York' (York,1973).

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

The papers of the Capricorn Africa Society (comprising the organisational files of the London Office, David Stirling's papers, and those from individuals) were filmed for the Cooperative Africana Microform Project (ref.CSAS/MF 18-37 (20 reels)). The films do not include the Southern Rhodesia files, which are only available in paper format.

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

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Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

GB 193

Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion




Archivist's note

Description compiled by Karamdeep Sahota,1 October 2007.

Accession area