2013 BAC Cataloguing Grant Winner

The Business Archives Council is delighted to announce the winning applicant of the BAC cataloguing grant for business archives for 2013. Launched in April 2010, the grant is in support of the National Strategy for Business Archives. The Council intends to make the grant available annually during strategy implementation, 2010-2015.

Again, an impressive set of applications were received by the June deadline, representing a variety of business collections and localities in the United Kingdom. The judging panel on behalf of the Council has awarded the grant to West Sussex Record Office for the cataloguing of The Hornung Papers.

Hornung & Co Ltd were empire builders, founders and owners of the Sena Sugar Estates in Mozambique, the Compania de Cha Oriental Estate in Malawi, sugar refineries in Portugal and the West Grinstead Stud in West Sussex, amongst other concerns. A microcosm of the European colonial system, the records of Hornung & Co Ltd present a rare opportunity to shed light on the development, maintenance and eventual downfall of perhaps the most significant English agricultural business to operate in colonial East Africa. After almost a century of dominance, the Hornung sugar estates – which formed one of the largest sugar plantations in the world, and directly employed some 14,000 people – were sacked during the 1980s and literally left to rot, as a result of Mozambique’s civil war.

Although pockets of records exist elsewhere, it is understood that many of the company’s records were destroyed, along with the estates. Consequently, this significant collection represents a rare survival and priceless opportunity for social and economic historians to study and assess the nature and infrastructure of an important and influential business, including its role in supporting colonial East Africa, and the impact of the colonial plantation system on a local, national and international scale.

The collection comprises 64 boxes (11.5 m3) of records and 12 volumes, dating from the 1890s-1980s, including: memoranda and articles of association; statutory documents; minutes of Directors’ and other meetings; annual reports; ledgers and financial records; copy letter books and correspondence files; African estate title deeds, plans and concession papers; sugar production charts and reports; ‘African diaries’, recording estate work and production on the Mozambican sugar estates; Stud record cards and racing files; family papers, including inventories of West Grinstead Park, the Hornung family home since 1913.

The judging panel recognised the rarity and importance of the collection, not least to those researching local and African history, specifically Mozambique, but also more widely, for example to industrial and agricultural historians, as well as agronomists investigating plantation systems and production. The project plan was clear and realistic with its aim to arrange the collection into sub-fonds and series and create the fonds level description and an accurate box list. Further funding from an identified source will be sought by West Sussex Record Office to complete the catalogue in the near future. Outreach was also a key element of the application, including collaboration with a Dutch university and repositories that hold complimentary archives; interaction with the local Portuguese community to establish a voluntary translation programme; publicising the collection on the Archives Hub and in a paper at the SCOLMA conference ‘Hidden Collections in African Studies’; and potentially using the records to develop and support local ‘remembrance’ or oral history projects, particularly amongst former employees of the estates. It was therefore evident that the collection was going to receive wider attention and represented good value.

Read the report of the project completion.