There are a lot of names in the new South Sudan archive. This is because these files are the historical jackpot for Southern history; they are the local, daily and everyday files of administration, financial dealing and political organising. While there are many repositories of archival material on Sudan in the world, not least in Durham, most of the documentation is larger-scale: from administrators, governments and political movements, and from bishops and priests.
What the South Sudan archive has is the local. I’ve found lists of demobilised anyanya soldiers from the first civil war in 1963-1972, lists of names for each village and town and district. I’ve found details of where they returned to, and what occupations they were given, and CVs of guerilla fighters applying for government positions that list their experiences in the bush.
I’ve also found voter lists from elections; lists of chiefs and debates over their appointment; lists of students returning from exile in 1972 and their subjects; lists of people participating in civil unrest and political parties, including parties that are now fundamental to Southern history.
I have also found other people who are the stuff of local, family history. Personnel files seem quite intact, including one for a man called Endeavour. The criminal files of towns and payams detail cases of hit-and-run incidents, thefts of one or two cows, and adultery cases in amusing detail. This is the stuff of real local history – material that is just not available anywhere else for South Sudan, and which I thought was gone.