UCL Institute of the Americas


Dominic Barker

MA in US Studies: History and Politics, 2014-15

Dissertation title: Ronald Reagan's relationship with apartheid South Africa

I spent two weeks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Archives in Simi Valley California, conducting archival research on President Reagan's relationship with apartheid South Africa. The process involved reading a range of materials from Reagan's personal diaries to letters, policy memos and newspaper articles. 

The funding was immeasurably helpful, without it I wouldn't have had this amazing opportunity! Visiting the library and archives gave me the motivation to work as hard as possible to gather as much information as I could. Looking through all of the papers, the vast majority of which are only accessible in person gave me a holistic impression of how events unfolded, which would not have been possible from secondary research. Perhaps the most important role of the visit, was to compare the primary material to the secondary material and realise that the secondary literature did not correlate with the information that I was finding.

I stayed in Simi Valley which was a 40 minute drive north of Los Angeles, and only a short drive to the library, which overlooks the entire Simi Valley area. The location was ideal as my days were spent at the library, and then evenings and weekends were spent on the world famous beaches of Malibu, Santa Monica and Santa Barbara.