n Historia - Dabbling in History : more apprenticeship than sorcery : reminiscences

Volume 57, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0018-229X



Almost two years ago, having been run to ground in the Western Cape winelands, I gave the first and last history inaugural lecture of my life. A bit of this and a bit of that, I concluded with a couple of observations on the future of the past, or the historian's usual recurring headache. One was to recall some of the sentiments of an Alan Paton Award acceptance speech made by the renowned Charles van Onselen in 1997. What were those? In a nutshell, we were reminded of the fine professional historians who tramp across this country in their shiny bibliographic boots and flowing footnotes. Yet, their talents had become devoted invariably to writing for other professional historians, an affair between smart consenting adults, with little thought given to firing the imagination of a more general reading public. Van Onselen's concern was the future of the past, arguing that for its continuing survival, scholarly South African history needed consciously to cultivate a more public audience.

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