A people not prepared to face its own history cannot manage to face its own future. (Attributed to: Karl-Heinz Hansen, German politician)

The WITS History department has a long and distinguished history. Founded in 1917, it continues to attract top-class academics and produce outstanding and innovative students. It has been led by several eminent intellectuals and seminal thinkers on South African society such as W M Macmillan and J S Marais. The history students taught by the department are to be found in leading positions in journalism, the civil service, diplomacy, research and many other fields.

Over the past few decades, the WITS History Department has developed a focus on the social history of Africa and her peoples, for which it has become renowned, as well as simultaneously maintaining a traditional expertise on world history. The History department offers a wide variety of units taught by some of the world’s leading Africanists and Europeanists.


History students and researchers at Wits are able to draw upon a vast range of local and international academic expertise, and on NGO, government, and business experiences to give intellectual depth and practical meaning to their work.


What could the past ever teach us? What use is History in a career? A great deal. The WITS History Department wants to teach the student how to process information, to throw away meaningless jargon, to discern patterns and not chaos. The History Department offers training in assessing evidence, in writing accurately and economically, in constructing an argument and in approaching a subject from one’s own angle. This will give the student an advantage in any profession, particularly now: the ’information age’ makes the discipline of History more useful, not less. Graduates are working in almost every profession imaginable, including professional research, heritage and museum management, cultural tourism, and curriculum development, and educational policy.


History offers a comprehensive programme for undergraduate students who wish to major in the discipline. It also offers postgraduate studies at the Honours, Masters and PhD levels.

We will be here when you need us - when you need your past to shape your future.

Research Units

History Workshop and NRF Chair

The department is closely linked to the History Workshop research group, and to the National Research Foundation Chair in Local Histories, Present Realities, under Professor Phil Bonner and Dr. Noor Nieftagodien.

The History Workshop is an interdisciplinary research group based at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Formed in 1977, it is run by a group of academics, writers and researchers. The current head of the unit is Professor P.L. Bonner. It holds conferences, open-days and runs several projects in popular history. FIND OUT MORE

School of Social Sciences

Undergraduate Courses

Level 1000 Courses

Level 2000 Courses

Level 3000 Courses

Contact Details

Tel: 27 (0)11 717 4312
Fax: 27 (0)11 717 4329

Physical Address

Room 43, Central Block
Great Hall, East Campus

Postal Address

History Department
P.O. Box Wits, 2050
Johannesburg, 2000
South Africa