(Including the Centre for Popular Memory and the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research)
Head of Department: Professor Howard Phillips
Research and research-linked scholarly work in the Department of Historical Studies concentrates mainly upon modern and contemporary history reflected through written, oral and visual sources, and is both lively and varied in focus. Fields of southern African investigation include environmental history, economic and social history, urban history, medical history, gendered history, the history of war and warfare, public history and heritage, film and history, and the history of slavery. History of Art research into visual representations of the past comprises studies in the history of African, Southern African and Western painting, graphic art and sculpture, as well as the study of art collecting and curatorship, photography, printing, and popular culture. Historical Studies at UCT is a major source of expert research scholarship on the Western Cape region and Cape Town in particular, and its established proficiency in postgraduate film and history teaching has led to the production of an annual series of Cape-based historical documentaries for wider educational use.
The Department houses the Centre for Popular Memory which focuses on the development of oral history and digital archive construction through both local community links and international collaboration. Other substantive funded projects include the history of GrooteSchuurHospital, local histories of slave life and identity, and the reclamation and study of West African Arabic manuscripts and South African art in the Twentieth Century. The Department also continues to manage the important Faculty resource in the visual arts, the Slide Library with around 80,000 images. The rich research culture of Historical Studies at UCT is fertilised by close links with the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and constantly expanding scholarly links nationally and into the African continent and beyond, and by an active complement of distinguished Honorary Research Associates.