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Papers of Stephen Clingman relating to Bram Fischer, c.1908-c.1998


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The collection comprises papers relating to the Fischer family (boxes 1-19), papers relating to legal and political cases in which Bram Fischer was involved (boxes 20-21) and papers relating to Bram Fischer's trial, illness and death (boxes 22-25).

Box 4 contains a guide and background to the archive compiled by Yvonne Malan, including an explanation of abbreviations and a list of prominent people appearing in the archive. Yvonne Malan has also translated some of the material in Afrikaans and the translations can be found in the relevant boxes.

Note: The papers are mainly photocopies of correspondence and newspaper cuttings.


  • Creation: c.1908-c.1998


4.0 Linear metres (25 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English
  • Afrikaans

Includes some material in Afrikaans.

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is restricted. Whole boxes and files which are restricted are indicated in the catalogue.

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction or publication without permission. Contact the Library in the first instance.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS. Afr. s. 2444, Box 1, fols. 1-2].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Afr. s. 2444/1-25

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 1258


Papers of Stephen Clingman relating to Bram Fischer, South African lawyer and anti-apartheid activist. The papers were collected by Clingman when writing his biography, Bram Fischer: Afrikaner Revolutionary (published 1998).

Biographical / Historical

Stephen Clingman was born in South Africa and studied at the University of the Witwatersrand and at Oxford University. In 1989 he joined the teaching staff at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Clingman's biography, Bram Fischer: Afrikaner Revolutionary, was published in 1998 (Cape Town: David Philip; Bellville: Mayibuye; Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press). It won the 1999 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award, South Africa's premier prize for non-fiction.

Abram (Bram) Fischer (1908-1975) was born in South Africa into a prominent Afrikaner nationalist family. He was called to the Johannesburg bar in 1935 and was appointed King’s Counsel in 1951. A distinguished lawyer, Fischer was involved in many political trials; he worked on the defence team in the Treason Trial (1957-1961) and led the defence team at the Rivonia Trial (1963-1964).

Shortly after the Rivonia Trial ended, Fischer was arrested for being a member of the illegal Communist Party. He was granted bail and permitted to go to London to argue a case before the Privy Council. He returned to South Africa to stand trial in November 1964 but one day absconded to continue his political activities underground.

In November 1965 Fischer was disbarred by the General Bar Council of South Africa and struck off the Roll of Advocates. He was captured the same month and tried on the more serious charge of conspiracy to commit sabotage as well as being a member of the Communist Party. In May 1966 he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1974 Fischer was diagnosed with cancer. In April 1975, following a public campaign appealing for his release, the government placed Fischer under house arrest at his brother's home in Bloemfontein. He died there the following month. Because Fischer had died a prisoner, the authorities demanded that his ashes were returned to them after the funeral.

In October 2003 Fischer was posthumously reinstated to the Roll of Advocates by a full bench of South Africa's high court.

Fischer married Susanna Johanna (Molly) Krige (1908-1964) in 1937. They had three children.


The original arrangement and description of the papers has been retained where possible.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were donated to the library on 17 April 2002.


Clingman, Stephen. Bram Fischer: Afrikaner Revolutionary. Cape Town: David Philip; Bellville: Mayibuye; Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.
Catalogue of the papers of Stephen Clingman relating to Bram Fischer, c.1908-c.1998
Finding aid prepared by Marion Lowman
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom