A Concise History of South Africa (Cambridge Concise Histories)

3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521575782
ISBN-10: 0521575788
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Editorial Reviews


"This book will provide its readers with a good platform from which to begin to expand their undestanding of Southern Africa." H-Net Reviews of Southern

"Ross's writing style will help the book find a wide audience. The narrative is not overburdened with the jargon of any particular historical school, and he uses strong, declarative sentences to make his points." The Historian

Book Description

This book provides a succinct overview of the last 1500 years of South African history, up to and including the government of Nelson Mandela. On the basis of a description of pre-colonial African societies and of colonial conquest, it concentrates on the economic and political transformations leading up to the radical changes of the last decade. Nevertheless, it also devotes much attention to the diversity of South African society and the vibrancy of its cultural life.

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Concise Histories
  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (May 28, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521575788
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521575782
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,173,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By "fred_c_dobbs" on August 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
This work by the well respected historian Robert Ross is primarily concerned with the economic, social, and political factors that influenced South African history. As the title suggests, it is a concise history and thus some topics receive less coverage than one might like. For example, the description of the Boer War takes place in a little over two pages. But the text is both coherent and highly informative, and strives to be as complete as possible given the limit on length presumably imposed by the people who publish Cambridge Concise Histories. The book begins with a physical description of the South African environment and then discusses the indigenous peoples and their societies previous to 1652, the point at which the Dutch established a base on the Cape, and where many histories begin. The next chapters are entitled Colonial Conquest, Unification, Consolidation, and Apartheid. Next follows a chapter that was of particular interest to me, The Costs of Apartheid, in which the author considers the political, social, and economic consequences of the imposition of apartheid. The book ends with the chapters Let Freedom Reign, and Epilogue: The Acid Rain of Freedom. My single complaint is that I would have found a few more maps helpful. But the careful reader will most likely find this to be an excellent book.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By K. Mills on February 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
Based on the title, I assumed that this book would be a relatively light overview of S. African history and would provide some commentary about how S. Africa had gotten to where it is today. My assumption was wrong, however, and I found it to be much more academic than I expected.
It seems to be the ambition of many historians to make their subject as dry and inaccessible as possible. I mean, why write a sentence like 'Then Bob rode his horse into the sunset' when you could write 'following, Robert employed his most favored mode of transport, equestrianism, to progress toward the sun, which was setting, as it had done ever since the Earth had formed from a rotating disk of hot dust, and was expected to do in the foreseeable future, every night."
Ross seems to struggle with the 'concise' aim of the book on a number of levels. First, as I've alluded to, he wastes a great deal of space with sentences like "He was succeeded by Balthazar Johannes Vorster, often, and surprisingly, anglicized to John, who was relatively junior in the cabinet and unforgiven by its elder members for his participation in the Ossewabrandwag, in the course of which he had spent some years in gaol during the war for nazi sympathies.' And, perhaps my favorite: 'Nevertheless, the cultures that have been developed are only local when, as is the case with certain of S. Africa's ethnicicities, they have been created in almost conscious rejection of values, which within the confines of S. Africa, are universal.' If you found those sentences clear and riveting, rush right out and buy this book.
Second, he seems bent on covering relatively minor occurrences with a single (run-on) sentence that has no real context and assumes that the reader has previous knowledge of the event.
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8 of 21 people found the following review helpful By 89fxrs on June 13, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is hard to follow. The maps are very poor and there is no sense of historical journey. It is very fact based and hard to follow.
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