Historia - Volume 59, Issue 2, 2014
Volumes & issues
Volume 59, Issue 2, 2014
Author Heather HughesSource: Historia 59, pp 355 –368 (2014)More Less
Keynote address delivered at the Biennial Conference (History Wars, Wars in History & other Southern African Histories) of the Historical Association of South Africa conference, Durban, University of KwaZulu-Natal, 26-28 June 2014
This article presents an overview of the relationship between what is now the KwaZulu-Natal coast and the Indian Ocean, from the perspective of what has been called an "amphibious" history of land-sea relationships. It discusses two broad approaches to the study of the Indian Ocean, one concerned more with politics, economy and technology, and another that focuses more on subjectivities and cultural exchange, to show how south-eastern Africa's place in the Indian Ocean imaginary varies according to which of these perspectives is adopted. It then examines the historical evidence concerning the relationship to the ocean of those who have lived and worked along this coast, focusing largely on the port of Durban. Finally it examines the linkages between the littoral and those who have gone to sea, whether as seafarers or different kinds of passengers. The conclusion is that there is still much to be uncovered about this stretch of coast in the Indian Ocean, if we ask the appropriate sorts of questions.
Hierdie artikel bied 'n oorsig aan van die verhouding tussen dít wat tans die kus van KwaZulu-Natal uitmaak en die Indiese Oseaan. Dit geskied vanuit die perspektief van wat as 'n "amfibiese" geskiedenis van land-en-seeverhoudinge bekend staan. Twee benaderings tot die studie van die Indiese Oseaan word gevolg - een meer gefokus op die politiek, ekonomie en tegnologie, en die ander op subjektiwiteite en kulturele uitruiling - om aan te toon hoe die posisie van suidoos Afrika in die Indiese Oseaan verbeelding varieer na aanleiding van die perspektief wat aangelê word. Daarna eksamineer die artikel die historiese bewyse rakende die verhouding tot die oseaan van dié wat langs die kus gewoon en gewerk het. Die fokus is grootliks op die hawe van Durban. Ten slotte word die verwantskappe tussen die land en dié wat die see in is, of hul seevaarders of passasiers was, ondersoek. Die gevolgtrekking is dat daar nog baie oor is om ontdek te word van hierdie deel van die kuslyn van die Indiese Oseaan, mits ons die regte vrae stel.
Author Bruce S. BennettSource: Historia 59, pp 369 –387 (2014)More Less
In The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb considers the importance in human affairs of "Black Swan" events of low probability but high impact. In the process he argues, in a confrontational manner, that historians' causal narratives are mainly invalid on a number of grounds but especially because the unpredictability of Black Swan (or other) events implies that subsequent narratives connecting events are merely "good-sounding stories". This article analyses Taleb's arguments against historical explanation and concludes that they are largely unsatisfactory. It questions Taleb's link between explanation and prediction in the context of history, arguing that Taleb's own concept of randomness as insufficient information implies greater knowledge after an event. However Taleb offers insights which can be of value to historians, and a more irenical relationship would be desirable.
In The Black Swan, beskou Nassim Nicholas Taleb die belangrikheid in menslike aangeleenthede van "Black Swan"-episodes as van geringe moontlikheid maar sterk impak. In die proses redeneer hy, op 'n konfronterende wyse, dat geskiedskrywers se oorsaaklike vertellings hoofsaaklik ongeldig is, op 'n hele aantal gronde, maar veral omdat die onvoorspelbaarheid van Black Swan- (of ander) episodes impliseer dat daaropvolgende vertellings wat episodes aan mekaar koppel, bloot "good-sounding stories" is. Hierdie artikel ontleed Taleb se redenasies teen historiese verklaring en kom tot die slotsom dat hulle grootliks onbevredigend is. Dit bevraagteken Taleb se verband tussen verduideliking en voorspelling in die eks van geskiedenis, deurdat hy redeneer dat Taleb se eie konsep van ewekansigheid as synde ontoereikende inligting, meer kennis na 'n episode impliseer. Taleb bied egter insigte wat waardevol kan wees vir historici, en 'n meer versoenende verhouding sou wensliker gewees het.
The genesis of the South African foot soldier
Assegais, Drums and Dragoons: A Military and Social History of the Cape, 1510-1806, Willem Steenkamp : book reviewAuthor Andre WesselsSource: Historia 59, pp 388 –390 (2014)More Less
The history of South Africa's armed forces dates back to just more than a century ago, because the unitary state was formed only in 1910, and the Union Defence Forces (since 1957 known as the South African Defence Force, and since 1994 as the South African National Defence Force) was established only in 1912; nevertheless, the country's military history can be traced back many centuries. The first clash between European soldiers and indigenous inhabitants took place at Saldanha Bay in 1510, between Portuguese seamen and members of a local Khoina clan. After Jan van Riebeeck established a refreshment station at the Cape in 1652, the next century and a half saw the Cape under Dutch/VOC (Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie, i.e. Dutch East India Company) control. The second British occupation of the Cape in 1806 ushered in a new era in the history of that colony, as well as for the whole of southern Africa.
Mystery, intrigue and insight in pursuit of the Chobona
The Side of the Sun at Noon: A Quest, Hazel Crampton : book reviewAuthor Jared McDonaldSource: Historia 59, pp 390 –393 (2014)More Less
The Side of the Sun at Noon is an engrossing tale delivered by a skilful hand at bringing history to life. Hazel Crampton has followed up her first full length book, The Sunburnt Queen (2004), with an equally compelling narrative; a quest (and a seemingly plausible discovery) in pursuit of the Chobona. In the process, Crampton has produced a history book that reads like a detective novel. The work is "un academic" in its presentation and style, and so enjoyable to read, that one could be forgiven for thinking that it is more a project in literary intrigue than historical inquiry. The 130 pages of endnotes and references at the back of the book suggest otherwise and bear testament to the extensive research on which the volume is based.
A powerful critique of recent colonial historiography
Theophilus Shepstone and the Forging of Natal, Jeff Guy : book reviewAuthor T.J. TallieSource: Historia 59, pp 393 –395 (2014)More Less
The majority of Guy's work has been a deeply rooted and fine grained history of African peoples in both Natal and Zululand, focusing specifically on power and production both before and during the colonial occupation of these regions. His close and careful readings of sources have primarily centred on the social and political economy of African peoples within and between these spaces, most notably in The Destruction of the Zulu Kingdom (1979), The Maphumulo Uprising (2005), and Remembering the Rebellion (2006). Conversely, Guy's work has significantly avoided centring on settler and colonial society in Natal.
An absorbing eyewitness account of a pivotal period
Eighteen Years in South Africa: A Swedish Gold-Digger's Account of his Adventures in the Land of Gold (1877-1896), E.J. Kärrström : book reviewAuthor Suryakanthie ChettySource: Historia 59, pp 396 –397 (2014)More Less
If ever there was an eyewitness to history, that distinction falls to the unnamed narrator in E.J. Kärrström's account of South Africa in the late nineteenth century. Translated from the original Swedish, Kärrström claims that it is a faithful rendition of the narrator's exploits during a pivotal period in South Africa's history. Unsurprisingly, from the outset, this raises questions of authenticity, yet this is nevertheless an absorbing piece of literature which vividly recreates fascinating people, events and places.
Another gem from a masterful military historian
Letters from Kimberley: Eyewitness Accounts from the South African War, Edward M. Spiers : book reviewAuthor Fransjohan PretoriusSource: Historia 59, pp 397 –400 (2014)More Less
This is another gem from Edward Spiers, Professor of Strategic Studies at the School of History, University of Leeds. A leading authority on the Victorian army, Spiers recently co edited A Military History of Scotland that received the Saltire Prize for the best book on Scottish history in 2012 and the Templer Medal from the Society for Army Historical Research. A grant from the Scouloudi Foundation in association with the Institute of Historical Research made the publication of Letters from Kimberley possible. It is the second book by Spiers on eyewitness accounts from the South African War or Anglo Boer War. The first, entitled Letters from Ladysmith: Eyewitness Accounts from the South African War, contained letters from the Natal front from the outbreak of the war on 11 October 1899 till the relief of Ladysmith on 28 February 1900 and after.
A truly remarkable biography
D.F. Malan and the Rise of Afrikaner Nationalism, Lindie Koorts : book reviewAuthor F.A. MoutonSource: Historia 59, pp 400 –402 (2014)More Less
Gordon S. Wood in his book, The Purpose of the Past: Reflections on the Uses of History (2008), argues that the problems and issues of the present should be the stimulus for historical forays into the past, but they should not be the criterion for what the historian finds in the past. The historian has to break loose from the immediate demands of the present and portray the past in its own context with all its complexity. In South Africa, struggling to come to terms with the destructive legacy of apartheid, this is a daunting challenge for the biographer of D.F. Malan, the stern and grim faced prime minister of the apartheid state between 1948 and 1954.
An obscure struggle stalwart brought to light
Govan Mbeki: A Jacana Pocket Biography, Colin Bundy : book reviewAuthor Barend Van der MerweSource: Historia 59, pp 403 –404 (2014)More Less
It is an unfortunate truth that the writing of history, with all its injustices done to past events, is more often than not left to those who triumph at the caucus, the ballot box or on the battlefield, rather than to those who are a little more obscure. What societies tend to forget tells as much a story as what they choose to remember. This is as true today as it has been throughout the course of history. Govan Mbeki can be said to be one of the more obscure characters of South Africa's liberation struggle. His life today is not celebrated in the same manner as those of numbers of his contemporaries. However, Colin Bundy's biography, in a very condensed yet effective way, does challenge this state of affairs.
Personal reminiscences on life as a member of the Black Sash
Swimming with Cobras, Rosemary Smith : book reviewAuthor Monica G. FernandesSource: Historia 59, pp 404 –407 (2014)More Less
Swimming with Cobras is a memoir by former Black Sash member, Rosemary Smith, who was born and raised in the United Kingdom. Smith moved to South Africa in 1966 and through this memoir she delivers a refreshing, personal perspective on South Africa's socio-political context from the mid 1960s through to the dawn of democracy in 1994. While the title of the book is a curious one, the first chapter explains its significance, detailing how Smith once swam in a river in the Eastern Cape while unbeknown to her there was a cobra swimming nearby. It was only after she had been alerted to the snake's presence that fear set in. The distress brought on by this experience is used as a metaphor for the fear felt by political activists during apartheid. Aside from setting up this metaphor, Smith also introduces the prevailing tone of the work, namely the diverse activities the Black Sash engaged in; these included, for example, attending funerals, which served as an act of solidarity as well as an opportunity to monitor the event for the potential recruitment of new members and for exposure of the organisation. One of the challenges that emerged through these events was language. While none of the Black Sash women could speak Xhosa or Zulu, and thus they could not communicate with a wider black audience, this did not prevent them from getting noticed during this politically turbulent time.
Formidabele ontleding van die SAW se betrokkenheid in die Grensoorlog
Die SAW in die Grensoorlog 1966-1989, Leopold Scholtz : boekresensieAuthor Wessel VisserSource: Historia 59, pp 407 –410 (2014)More Less
Leopold Scholtz se studie oor die Grensoorlog is die jongste toevoeging tot die groeiende, sogenaamde grensliteratuur aangaande Suid Afrika se aandeel aan die konflik in Namibië en Angola gedurende die tydperk 1966 - 1989. Dit is inderdaad een van die omvattendste publikasies oor die oorlog aangesien Scholtz se werk 'n aantal jare na die einde van die konflik geskryf is. Die skrywer het die voordeel van retrospeksie en sedert die einde van die oorlog het verskeie nuwe bronne daaroor beskikbaar geraak wat die moontlikheid van nuwe perspektiewe op die gevegte meebring.
Another example of the power of the biography
The Death of an Idealist: In Search of Neil Aggett, Beverley Naidoo : book reviewAuthor Ian MacqueenSource: Historia 59, pp 411 –413 (2014)More Less
Beverley Naidoo's The Death of an Idealist: In Search of Neil Aggett is at once an intimate account of the author's attempt to discover a distantly known first cousin, as well as a story of the late years of apartheid. The book intertwines personal narrative with public history, to offer another example of the power of the biography as a mode of historical analysis, at once able to capture a society in microcosm while drawing in the historical macro. In her explanation for writing the book, the author recounts hearing the news of the death of Neil Aggett in police custody in 1982, while she was living in exile in England. Her return to South Africa, resurfacing her own history as a political prisoner who had left for exile in the 1960s, are the launch pads for the "search for Neil Aggett".
Reading cultures in a divided past revealed
The Hidden History of South Africa's Book and Reading Cultures, Archie L. Dick : book reviewAuthor Vukile KhumaloSource: Historia 59, pp 413 –416 (2014)More Less
Archie L. Dick's book entitled, The Hidden History of South Africa's Book and Reading Cultures is an important study on the development of book and reading cultures in South Africa over the past 300 years. That the book manages to carry the reader along on this contested and often conflicted history of South Africa in an engaging style is a credit to the author. While the text follows historical chronology, it is organised around eight themes; the opening chapter discusses the period between 1658 and 1800, and the final chapter explores a significant contemporary theme entitled, "Combating Censorship and Making Space for Books".
An important contribution to the intellectual history of South Africa
Inside African Anthropology: Monica Wilson and her Interpreters, Andrew Bank and Leslie J. Bank (Eds.) : book reviewAuthor Stephen SparksSource: Historia 59, pp 416 –419 (2014)More Less
This is a quite excellent and important edited volume. The book sets out to challenge the "official history" of anthropology in southern Africa by explicating the role of Monica Hunter Wilson's African research assistants in the production of her ethnographies. Resisting the exhausted trope of anthropology's "hidden colonialism", Wilson's relationships with her key assistants Godfrey Pitje, Livingstone Mqotsi and Archie Mafeje are presented as fundamentally collaborative (though not always fully acknowledged) and the knowledge produced out of these relationships characterised as "much more complex than simple dualistic models allow" (p 6).
A journey through a site of contrasts
Winelands, Wealth and Work: Transformations in the Dwars River Valley, Stellenbosch, Kees van der Waal (Ed.) : book reviewAuthor William EllisSource: Historia 59, pp 419 –421 (2014)More Less
This text represents the culmination of the collaboration by staff and postgraduate students from the University of Stellenbosch in the Dwars River Valley. The collaboration has resulted in an academic work that aims to examine the changes in practices and place as a result of shifts in both local and global patterns of political and economic life. The text seeks to map out a range of responses to the global neo liberal forces at a very local level and in doing so it has touched on rather topical issues in South African anthropology and history today. Examples of these themes are shifting populations; new models of development; the slow violence of poverty and domination; and emergent and protean forms of dominance as well as responses, such as the new Pentecostalism. All in all the work takes the reader on a journey through a site of contrasts. The reader encounters gentlemen's wine estates, squatter camps, abandoned farm houses, idyllic villages (gentrification) and a people's desire for respectability through housing, family, church, work and heritage. It follows in the tradition of anthropologists like Fiona Ross who has attempted to document the experience of raw life in the new South Africa.
A critique of military culture that is both hit and miss
On Military Culture: Theory, Practice and African Armed Forces, Abel Esterhuise, Francois Vrëy and Thomas Mandrup (Eds.) : book reviewAuthor Joelien PretoriusSource: Historia 59, pp 422 –424 (2014)More Less
The origins of this book lie in the productive collaboration between the Strategy Department of the Faculty of Military Science, Stellenbosch University and the Faculty of the Royal Danish Defence College, with two editors, Abel Esterhuise and Francois Vrëy, hailing from the former institution and Thomas Mandrup from the latter. In particular, the publication benefited from a conference that was hosted by the two institutions in 2011 on military culture and African armed forces and the chapters are largely based on papers presented at this conference. This explains the nature of the edited volume.
Black medical education and struggles against apartheid in South Africa
A School of Struggle: Durban's Medical School and the Education of Black Doctors in South Africa, Vanessa Noble : book reviewAuthor Glen NcubeSource: Historia 59, pp 424 –427 (2014)More Less
Aptly entitled A School of Struggle, Vanessa Noble's book is a vital contribution to South Africa's burgeoning medical historiography and its niche lies in its focus on the apartheid era's University of Natal Medical School for black candidates. Although a few of South Africa's iconic teaching hospitals such as Groote Schuur (in Cape Town), and Baragwanath Hospital (in Johannesburg), have recently received book length analyses illuminating some of the issues covered in Noble's book, the rich and complex medical history of South Africa would be incomplete without a thorough analysis of the country's main producer of black medics during the apartheid era.
Source: Historia 59, pp 435 –437 (2014)More Less
The Historical Association of South Africa (HASA) announces the launch of this new award to the best third year student in History at every participating University in South Africa. This award is in recognition of Prof Johan Bergh who was president of HASA for over two decades and is in line with his ongoing commitment to promote History at postgraduate level. The winners will receive a year's subscription to Historia and their names will be announced in the first issue of Historia in the subsequent year.
Die Historiese Genootskap van Suid-Afrika (HGSA) kondig die bekendstelling van 'n nuwe toekenning vir die beste derdejaarstudent in Geskiedenis aan deelnemende universiteite in Suid-Afrika aan. Hierdie toekenning is 'n erkenning aan Prof Johan Bergh wat vir meer as twee dekades die president van die HGSA was en is in ooreenstemming met sy voortdurende toewyding om Geskiedenis op nagraadse vlak te bevorder. Die wenners sal 'n jaar se intekening op Historia wen en hulle name sal in die eerste uitgawe van Historia in die daaropvolgende jaar gepubliseer word.