A History of South Africa
In A HISTORY OF SOUTH AFRICA, Yale historian Leonard Thompson draws on nearly a century of scholarship, enabling the general public to understand why South Africa’s problems have grown to their current magnitude.
Starting with an examination of the earliest oral records of the indigenous peoples of the region—particularly their social patterns, forms of governance and means of survival—Thompson surveys the successive waves of European migration.
Thompson’s account of the Imperial Dutch and their use of the Cape of Good Hope as a way station, the English and their clients, the gold and diamond miners, is balanced by an examination of the African response. The ways in which Afrikaaner society gradually became a virtual mimicry of the indigenous social patterns are handled meticulously. Particularly well covered, and possibly surprising to the nonexpert, is Thompson’s account of the wars fought by the indigenous Africans throughout the nineteenth century, and their sophisticated military unification concurrent with, but not caused by, the external European threat.
The emergence of Boer/Afrikaaner society as a political player in the mid-1800’s will also come as a surprise to those who are more accustomed to accepting the modern-day Boers’ own heroic, but not entirely authentic, history. Equally surprising will be Thompson’s depiction of the late nineteenth century British as power brokers who believed their Empire so...
(The entire section is 385 words.)
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