The history of Robben Island: A timeline

In 1421, Chinese fleet rounds the Cape of Good Hope and most likely sets food on the Island. In 1421, Chinese Emperor Zhu Di dispatched a huge armada of ships to sail around the world. The armada split into four fleets under the overall command of Admiral Zheng He. In August of 1421, the fleet rounded the Cape of Good Hope and relatively accurately mapped the continent for the first time. While we have no evidence of the crews setting foot on either Robben Island or the mainland, it is presumed that they would have done so ... read more

This archive was created by South African History Online (SAHO) to celebrate Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday on 18 July 2008. We launched this project on 26 June 2008, a significant date in Mandela’s life as 26 June was celebrated by the ANC and other liberation organizations as ‘Freedom Day’, until the first democratic elections in April 1994.

Mandela's name resonates with the struggle for independence and social, economic, political and institutional rights of all South Africans. The commemoration of his birth this year is a fitting tribute to a hero who has won the Nobel Peace Prize and several other accolades.

He was an indisputable revolutionary war leader who endured arrest, trial and incarceration on Robben Island. Whilst in prison he wrote numerous correspondences which helped keep the revolution alive.

Madiba did not achieve greatness alone; he was influenced and supported by many people who worked alongside him during the struggle. We recognise, as Mandela has, that his achievements would not have been possible without the influence and support of his comrades in the struggle for Freedom.

In 2009, Mandela’s birthday was declared global Mandela Day. The purpose of this day, according to, is to spend 67 minutes making a contribution to the betterment of society, symbolic of Mandela’s 67 years of making a difference.