n Historia - The fork in the road? British reactions to the election of an apartheid government in South Africa, May 1948




This article is a natural follow-up to a previous contribution to Historia that was published in 2004, entitled "Certain Destiny : The Presentist Obsession with 'Apartheid' in South African History." In that article, I analysed the 1948 election, which brought the National Party (NP) apartheid government to power for the first time, in the light of the popular notion that this victory represented a "turning point" in South African history. I attempted to prove that on the contrary, the NP's grip on power under D.F. Malan was fragile; the NP conception of "apartheid" was in flux; and the number of South African whites who opposed apartheid and the Nationalists was very great. Moreover, the United Party opposition had every intention of winning the next election. Meanwhile, as I indicated, the British, who were highly interested observers of South African politics, reacted passively to the 1948 election. They seemed to believe, as did Field Marshal Smuts and his many followers in South Africa, that the National Party victory was a temporary setback.


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