Out of the cover of Charles van Onselen's newest magnum opus - a striking cover, the colour of dried blood and darkness, glossy embossed flies hovering - the man stares with eyes that gleam with an unnatural glassiness. This photographed figure reminds me of Charles Dickens' portrayal of Blandois, an ugly insinuating presence in his novel Little Dorrit, "with his moustache going up and his nose coming down in that most evil of smiles, and with his surface eyes looking as if they belonged to his dyed hair, and had had their natural power of reflecting light stopped" by some unnerving natural process. However, Dickens insists, Nature "is never to blame in any such instance".
The war diary of Johanna Brandt beskryf die aktiwiteite van Johanna van Warmelo en haar moeder tydens die Anglo-Boereoorlog. Die oorspronklike handgeskrewe dagboeke behels agt dele, waarvan sewe in die Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerkargief bewaar word. Dit is in boekvorm saamgevat en geredigeer deur Jackie Grobler, verbonde aan die Departement Historiese en Erfenisstudies aan die Universiteit van Pretoria. Die publikasie is van 'n waardevolle naamindeks voorsien, wat die dagboek toeganklik maak, sodat navorsers dit ten volle kan ontgin. Dit word ryklik toegelig met foto's van plekke, gebeure en persoonlikhede uit die tydperk, 1899-1902.
Anton van Wouw : the smaller works is, as its title implies, concerned with the generally lesser-known smaller works of Dutch-born sculptor, Anton van Wouw. Using the measure of "half life-size and smaller" as a guideline, author Alexander Duffey provides a comprehensive and well-illustrated overview of the many full-length small sculptures, busts, relief panels and maquettes produced by Van Wouw between 1881 (nine years prior to his arrival in South Africa at the age of 28) and 1940. Naturalistically sculpted and generally cast in bronze, these smaller works are wide-ranging in their subject matter, depicting innocuous, commonplace scenes alongside aspects of Afrikaner history, representations of Boer and British leaders, and so-called "native studies" (p 11).
It may come as a surprise to readers of this South African journal that post-colonial studies are a comparatively new field of study in the Humanities, especially in literature studies, in Germany. Of course historians have been dealing with Germany's colonial heritage for decades, yet there were few approaches trying to integrate the account of historical occurrences into the context of a Westernised philosophical concept until the late1980s. Van der Heyden and Zeller's books aim at dealing with colonialism as a cultural phenomenon, touching on "how colonial discourses influenced the mental and cultural self-image of the former colonial powers and how these discourses contributed to their nation building and their national image" (Van der Heyden & Zeller  from p 8 - reviewer's translation). Both volumes offer fascinating insights for readers of all backgrounds into better and often lesser known aspects of German colonialism; and while Berlin as the geographical locus is the focus of both works, the various contributions transcend this spatial limitation.
This appropriately titled and beautifully written book explores the lives of 152 266 indentured labourers that came from India to work on the sugar plantations of Natal over the period 1860 to the end of indenture in July 1911. They were part of approximately 1,3-million indentured Indians that went to fourteen British colonies over the period 1838-1916.
With their Volumes 37 and 39 (Second Series), the Van Riebeeck Society for the Publication of Southern African Historical Documents (VRS Hereafter) are not only continuing their tradition of producing high quality source publications, they are also breaking new ground - and hopefully setting a new trend. For a long time now this society's publications have proven the value of approaching the collection, selection and presentation of source material as a collaborative effort between two or more scholars who could either supplement one another's different skills, or focus their similar capabilities on one and the same subject, thus multiplying the veracity of the outcome. The VRS' patronage has long since also included the translation of documents into English, the unofficial lingua franca in Southern African historical writing. What is new about these latest two books, Words of Batswana and Isaac Williams Wauchope, is that they are the result of collaborative work in multilanguage publishing : in these books documentation of historical and literary value written a century ago in two African languages (Setswana and isiXhosa respectively) were rescued, in the words of VRS Chairperson Howard Phillips, "from the crumbling pages of long-forgotten newspapers" (Wauchope, p xiv). Each transcription from the newspapers is accompanied with a complete translation into English. True to VRS style, the collections are contextualised with comprehensive and insightful introductions and annotations.
With the film Goodbye Lenin, audiences the world over were enchanted by the humoristic depiction of citizens of the former German Democratic Republic entering the post-Cold War world. With a more recent production, The lives of others, many filmgoers were left with an impression of East Germany as a starkly sinister place. With his book Zwischen Solidarität und Wirtschaftsinteressen, Ulrich van der Heyden offers South Africans a thoroughly alternative way to reflect upon the German Democratic Republic (hereafter GDR) past: by looking into the way the people and the government of their own country interacted with the GDR throughout its existence in the last half of the twentieth century, he illustrates the tug-of-war between principles and economic realities for two states which upheld highly conflicting ideologies, but, ironically, due to the weight of those very ideologies, shared a culture of centralised control, censorship and public surveillance. The title of the book translates as follows: "Between solidarity and economic interests: The 'secret' relations of the GDR with the South African apartheid regime".
Cherryl Walker's insightful and authoritative monograph, in part a reworking of material published over the course of the last eight years, explores and assesses the work of South Africa's land restitution programme since its formal inception in the early 1990s. A central project ties together a range of well-informed and superbly articulated critiques of restitution, that is, the "unstable authority" and meaning of land in national politics and local contexts.
Sidney Bunting - a founder member of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) and a leading South African communist of the 1920s - was an extraordinary person who lived an extraordinary life. It was, indeed, so full of surprise and drama, that it might have merited a novel, not just an academic biography.
On 10 February 2008, the University of Pretoria (UP) celebrated its centenary. As part of the celebrations, Professor Van der Watt, a retired senior academic and the editor of the fourth volume (1993-2000) of the Ad Destinatum series on the history of the university, as well as the author of Rectores Magnifici (2003), the history of the first eleven university principals, was commissioned to write a history of the institution. He was supported in this endeavour by Professor Karin Harris, director of the UP archive and her efficient staff of archivists.