As I progress with research for my project and prepare for the presentation next week, I’ve been deliberating with deciding between a research proposal and a traditional long essay. Much of this decision making is dictated by how many sources I am able to find – and whether this conflates to enough resources to write a 4000-word essay. Comparisons or studies which discuss Czechoslovakia and South Africa are rare to find – understandably, since this is where I have discerned a gap in historiography that I hope to fill. However, primary sources have also been difficult to find – particularly on the Czechoslovakian side. Though I have managed to find some great archive sources, I have been concerned that this might not be enough for an essay. So, I have been asking myself the question recently – how many sources are necessary? To what extent does this need to be balanced with original analysis? To answer these questions I have been looking to other journal articles as an example. 

Many other articles that discuss anti-apartheid in reference to Eastern European countries take more of a general approach – including sources from many different Eastern European states in order to provide a broader overview of the Eastern bloc’s involvement in anti-apartheid. Others focus more on using strictly state/government sources and conducting an examination of bilateral relations between Czechoslovakia and South Africa. However, it is clear to see from these examples that sources in this area are far and few between. Nevertheless, I think the benefit of my research plan – which is to study not just bilateral relations but also grassroots activism and dissident movements in Czechoslovakia that arose during the anti-apartheid movement means that I will have more sources to work with – particularly if I include political writings by Czechoslovak dissidents that utilise the human rights rhetoric that is presence in anti-apartheid writing. Thus, I think much of the connections to be made between sources will come from viewing them with a closer eye and drawing similarities in language, for example. In terms of growing my source base, I have also managed to find many great sources looking through the footnotes of Tom Lodge and Milan Oralek’s “Fraternal Friends: South African Communists and Czechoslovakia, 1945–89”, one of the only articles that places a transnational lens of Czechoslovak-South African relations. This has helped a lot with growing my source base.  

So, for now, I think I will crack on with analysing the sources I have and planning for a long essay. Part of my apprehension in doing a research proposal is that I do not think there actually are a substantial number of sources I would be able to find had I access to the right databases or time to translate that would make a dramatic difference to my analysis. I hope that once I present my findings in next week’s presentation, I might receive some advice on whether my current research lends enough to a full-length essay.  

More project thoughts – how much is enough?