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Gwendolen M. Carter Collection

Identifier: MS Group 193

Scope and Content

The Gwendolen M. Carter Collection encompasses the research and personal files of Gwendolen Carter, dating primarily from 1970 to 1987. A small amount of material from the 1930s, 1960s and 1990s is included. The papers are predominantly related to her research into the political and economic dynamics of southern Africa, particularly South Africa, during the 1970s and 1980s.

The collection includes correspondence, press clippings, newsletters, political pamphlets, manuscripts, papers for presentation, writings, memorandum, research notes, speeches, interview transcripts and a small number of photographs, souvenir ephemera and postcards. Carter made a number of research trips to southern Africa during the years covered by the collection and the papers comprise excellent documentation of her activities while abroad.

A substantial amount of the collection relates to Carter's work with the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), including transcripts of interviews, correspondence and research notes which emerged out of her contacts with well-known political activists and politicians based in southern Africa. Documents, speeches, and letters relating to Julius Nyerere, Seretse Khama, Gatsha Buthelezi, Steve Biko and Helen Joseph are particularly well-represented. The collection also includes a considerable number of materials pertaining to detention, the 1984 South African Constitution and the Transkei.

The papers also contain a wide-ranging collection of newsletters, memoranda and pamphlets of organizations involved in anti-apartheid activities such as the Black Sash; the South African Institute of Race Relations; the Wages Commission; and the Detainees Parents Support Commission. Also included are numerous press clippings from South Africa and North America, relating to a broad range of issues facing southern Africa. In addition, the papers include a wide array of writings (drafts of papers, book chapters and conference papers), correspondence from Carter's academic colleagues and friends and early drafts of Carter's published works. One notable inclusion is a copy of Carter's substantial typescript autobiography (unpublished), which details her childhood and 40 years of personal and research experiences in southern Africa and North America. The papers are organized into two main sections: Personal Materials (1932-1991) and Research Materials (1932-1987).


  • Creation: 1932-1991
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1970-1987



The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

Gwendolen Margaret Carter was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1906. The daughter of a physician, she completed a B.A. in history at the University of Toronto in 1929. She received a second B.A. from Oxford in 1931 and returned to Hamilton, Ontario to teach at McMaster University until 1935.

Carter came to the United States to undertake graduate study at Radcliffe College, where she completed both her M.A. (1936) and Ph.D. (1938) in political science. Naturalized as a US citizen in 1948, she taught political science at Smith College from 1943 to 1964, holding the Sophia Smith chair there from 1961. She was then at Northwestern University from 1964-1974 as Melville J. Herskovits Professor of African Affairs. She taught at Indiana University 1974-1984 and was on faculty at the University of Florida from 1984 until her retirement in 1987.

While Carter's early work focused on European governance, her scholarly attention shifted to Africa following an initial trip to South Africa in 1948. From then on, she specialized in the politics and economy of southern Africa over the course of a career that spanned more than forty years. Carter's many research trips to South Africa culminated in numerous publications, several of which have become classic texts in both political science and African studies. These canonical works, which detail the dynamics of political change in Africa, include: The Politics of Inequality: South Africa Since 1948 (1958); Independence for Africa (1960); South Africa's Transkei: The Politics of Domestic Colonialism (1967); and Which Way is South Africa Going? (1980). She edited several works about Africa, including the four-volume From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa 1882-1964 (1972-1977).

Professor Carter was one of the founders of African Studies in the US and was amongst the most widely known scholars of African affairs in the twentieth century. She was 84 years old when she died at her home in Orange City, Florida on February 20, 1991.


5.5 Linear feet (14 Boxes)

Language of Materials



The Carter Collection is comprised of the research and personal files of Gwendolen Carter. The papers are predominantly related to her research of southern Africa, particularly South Africa, during the 1970s and 1980s.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Alternate Form of Material

Digital reproductions of items in the Carter collection are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

Related Material

Northwestern University Archives holds the Gwendolen M. Carter Papers, 1915-1991 (Series 35/10, Africana Manuscripts 10). This collection spans the years 1915-1991 and includes biographical materials, correspondence, teaching files, research and field notes, reprints and manuscript drafts, and several clippings scrapbooks. Carter was the Director of Northwestern's Program of African Studies, 1964-1974.

A Guide to the Gwendolen M. Carter Collection
Finding aid created by Dan Reboussin and Danielle Altman
June 2006
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America