n South African Journal of Cultural History - A History of South Africa: From the Distant Past to the Present Day, Fransjohan Pretorius (Ed.) : book review

Volume 29, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1011-3053



It is extremely satisfying to see how contemporary historians are still rewriting South Africa's history through a variety of perspectives. Yet, this book reminds me of the "life changing" question my archaeology lecturer issued to his first-year class in 2006. He asked: "Who owns the past?" and yet, to this very day, I cannot answer that question. The "Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns" (henceforth the Academy) launched a laudable effort, under the auspices of Professor Fransjohan Pretorius (retired Professor of History at the University of Pretoria), to deliver several accounts about South Africa's past and therefore try and showcase our shared ownership of the country's history. The Academy approached highly-skilled and knowledgeable researchers and writers within its own membership to write this book. In addition to the social scientists within their own ranks, historians who were not part of the Academy were also requested to contribute, so that the expected rigorous scholarship could be obtained. The book starts with a chapter from the sharp analytical mind of Prof Andrie Meyer about the geological, geomorphic, paleo-anthropological and archaeological facts about South Africa, Africa and also the entire Universe. His work is followed with chapters explaining the pre-colonial, colonial and modern history of the Republic of South Africa. Chapters by experienced and professional historians such as Profs Japie Brits (retired Professor of History from UNISA), Kobus Du Pisani (Professor of History at the Potchefstroom campus of the North-West Province), Grietjie Verhoef (Professor of Accountancy and Economic history at the University of Johannesburg) and journalists such as Jan-Jan Joubert and Dr Leopold Scholtz, just to name a few, gives this publication a large variety of different views and arguments to engage with, especially regarding our present day obstacles and challenges.

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