- 1948-1963 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
0.42 cubic metres
Name of creator
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.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
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.
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
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
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
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
Related units of description
Name access points
- University of York, Centre for Southern African Studies (Subject)
- Stirling, Sir (Archibald) David, 1915-1990, Colonel (Subject)
- Greaves, Lionel Bruce, fl 1950s (Subject)
- Crookenden, Henry, d.1972 (Subject)
- Bartosik, Jeannine Patricia, 1923-2006 (Subject)
- Lewis, Jonathan, fl. 1955-1974 (Subject)
- Slessor, Sir John Cotesworth, 1897-1979, Knight Marshall of the Royal Air Force (Subject)
- Capricorn Africa Society (Subject)