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n Historia - Pioneering regional history studies in South Africa : reflections within the former Section for Regional History at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

Volume 59, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0018-229X
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Abstract

In the early 1970s, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) explored the possibility of establishing a regional history studies section within the Institute for Historical Research (IHR), which was founded in 1969. At the helm as director was a military historian, Commandant C.M. Bakkes. After the institute had been founded, a few young upcoming historians were appointed under his leadership. One of the early appointments was Mr (later Dr) Arie Oberholster. He was expected to be the driving force behind the IHR's planned regional studies section. Because the initiative was only a proposal (although passionately driven) in a still empty vessel, the IHR tasked Oberholster to explore, observe and learn from the international community in Europe and the USA. He did so for three months in 1974. Oberholster's insights, and the efforts of his counterpart Dr C.C. (Callie) Eloff, formed the cornerstone upon which the IHR's Section for Urban and Regional History was based shortly after July 1974. This discussion is in essence a recapitulation of this first formal initiative in South Africa to pioneer research in the field of regional history studies. It reveals how international thinking and doing helped to shape the early leadership's thinking about research in this comprehensive and challenging but exciting field of regional history. It is unfortunate that the IHR and all its activities were closed down in the early 1990s. This action brought constructive regional history studies to a standstill, and ended an initiative which could have flourished in the modern social history of South Africa. It has been suggested that the firm foundation from which regional history studies departed in the former IHR of the HSRC (ideas, planning, research capacity, networking, publication, education and methodology) should be re-instated and continued in a newly created historical institute or regional institute with a much broader and deeper scope of regional history studies than any effort that has been made since the IHR was closed. If this is not done, South Africa will continue to lose valuable historical memory daily among black, white, coloured, Indian and other communities in all the provincial regions of the country.


In die vroeg sewentigerjare het die Raad vir Geesteswetenskaplike Navorsing (RGN) ondersoek ingestel na die moontlikheid van die vestiging van 'n afdeling streeksgeskiedenis aan die Instituut vir Historiese Navorsing (IHN). Laasgenoemde is reeds in 1969 gestig. As direkteur is aangestel 'n militêre historikus, kommandant C.M. Bakkes. Onder sy leiding is 'n paar jong opkomende navorsers in Geskiedenis in diens geneem. Een van die eerste benoemings was mnr (later doktor) Arie Oberholster. Met verloop van tyd was Oberholster die dryfkrag agter die IHR se streeksgeskiedenis inisiatief. Omdat die moontlikheid vir 'n streeksgeskiedenis afdeling nog net 'n voorstel was, het die IHR vir Oberholster getaak om wyd te verken, waar te neem en te leer van die internasionale gemeenskap in Europa en die VSA. Dié opdrag het hy vir drie maande in 1974 uitgevoer. Oberholster se insigte voortvloeiend hieruit, en die pogings van sy eweknie dr C.C. (Callie) Eloff, sou die hoekstene vorm waarop die IHR se Afdeling Stads- en Streeksgeskiedenis kort na Julie 1974, tot stand gekom het. Hierdie bespreking is in wese 'n kritiese en analitiese samevatting van die eerste formele inisiatief in Suid-Afrika om streeksgeskiedenisnavorsing te vestig. In die gesprek word uitgewys hoe eertydse internasionale denke en aktiwiteite in die praktyk daartoe bygedra het om die vroeë leierskap in die Afdeling Stads- en Streeksgeskiedenis se denke te help vorm oor navorsing in hierdie omvattende en uitdagende maar opwindende terrein. Dit is jammer dat die IHR en al sy aktiwiteite in die vroeë 1990's beëindig is. Hierdie aksie het konstruktiewe en kontinue navorsing in streeksgeskiedenis navorsing 'n besliste knou gegee. Dit in 'n tydperk waarin moderne sosiale geskiedenis in Suid-Afrika ook binne hierdie subveld van geskiedenis kon floreer het. In die bespreking is voorgestel dat die stewige fondament waarop die Afdeling Stads- en Streeksgeskiedenisstudies eertyds funksioneer het voor hulle sluiting (idees, beplanning, navorsingskapasiteit, netwerke, publikasie, onderrig en metodiek) eerder herstel behoort te word, en voortgesit behoort te word in 'n nuutgeskepte historiese instituut van 'n aard. As voorbeeld hiervan dalk die gedagte van 'n streeksgeskiedenisinstituut met as fokus 'n baie breër en dieper omvang van streekhistoriese studies as enige poging tevore wat gemaak is in Suid-Afrika sedert die IHR is gesluit het. As dit nie gedoen word nie, sal die land steeds waardevolle historiese geheue onder swart, wit, bruin, Indiër en ander gemeenskappe in al die provinsiale streke van die land op 'n daaglikse tempo verloor.

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/content/hist/59/1/EJC153577
2014-05-01
2017-10-22

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