Historians use different types of sources when reconstructing
the past. of the two major categories of sources, the primary
sources are of major importance for attaining information, as
they are contemporary to the period which is being
researched. They are often more reliable than the other
category, namely secondary sources, which are literally
second-hand information. However, all possible sources, both
primary and secondary, must be approached critically so as to
obtain a balanced version of the past.
In the South African situation, for an extensive period of
time, most of the historical writing on the early periods was
based on the records which were made by the Europeanoriginated
Whites who had the advantage of being able to put
their accounts in writin~. This led to the European-White
perspective dominating and monopolising the historiographical
stage for quite a long time. The perspective of the
indigenous inhabitants of South Africa had been overshadowed
owing to their inability to read and write.
The written sources on the Blacks in South Africa date back
to the time when the first Europeans set foot here. The early
European travellers (traders, hunters, natural scientists,
etc.) came into contact with the Black communities and they
made records on them. Obviously these travellers based such
records on their own interests and also wrote from a
Eurocentric position, with cultural differences as well as
racial prejudices and superior attitudes towards the Blacks.
The missionaries, who were mostly of European origin, also
made records about the Blacks among whom they worked. The
missionaries also had their own agenda, although different
from that of the travellers. The records which they kept
mostly reflected their "fight" against what they thought were
barbaric and backward ways of the Blacks' lifestyle.
In addition to the records made by the early travellers and
missionaries about the Blacks, there were records which were
made by the Boer and British government officials. In this
study the official records pertaining to the Blacks in the
Transvaal between 1902 and 1907 are discussed. Firstly, a
historiographical overview is presented and secondly, the
official records themselves are analysed and evaluated. The
importance of those records as sources of information on the
Blacks in the Transvaal, especially the Northern Sotho, is
evaluated by using different criteria, including the
Principle of internal criticism. There are numerous flaws and
limitations found in these records about Blacks such as
cultural differences, subjectivity, prejudice, bias, etc.
However, even though these records contain such flaws, they
are still important sources of information. Their most
important value is that they form the basis and point of
departure from where historical reconstruction is made.
Research, even in future, would still heavily depend on these
records as sources of information. But, as already pointed
out, the information obtained in them has to be tested by
different criteria in order to detect the limitations, so
that a more balanced reconstructions can be achieved.