A thesis embargoed: Personnel research and ideology in South Africa after World War II





history, personnel research, African civil servants, apartheid, NIPR


Ten years after the conclusion of World War II, the Department of Native Affairs of the National Party government of South Africa sponsored research into the selection of African civil servants. The study was conducted by Rae Sherwood, under the auspices of the National Social Research Council, and the National Institute for Personnel Research. In 1960, Sherwood submitted the work to the University of the Witwatersrand to obtain a PhD degree. Two government departments objected to the award of the degree. In this paper, I recount the history of the research, explaining that the acceleration of the apartheid project between 1948 and 1961 played a significant role in the controversy that developed. The paper furthermore illustrates the difficulties faced by social scientific research under repressive political conditions, and the need for a more nuanced view of the psychological research of the National Institute for Personnel Research in South Africa at the time.


  • The history of South Africa’s research organisations has been of interest for a long time. This study recalls the history of an unknown chapter in the history of the National Institute for Personnel Research, based on a PhD submission kept under embargo in the archives of the University of the Witwatersrand. The study was methodologically sophisticated, rich in data, but controversial in its findings, at least as it reflected on the policies pursued by the apartheid government after World War II. It adds another contextual element to the type of work conducted by the Institute.



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How to Cite

Louw, J. (2021). A thesis embargoed: Personnel research and ideology in South Africa after World War II. South African Journal of Science, 117(9/10). https://doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2021/9512



Research Article

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