- Series: Reconsiderations in Southern African History
- Paperback: 720 pages
- Publisher: University of Virginia Press (September 29, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0813922372
- ISBN-13: 978-0813922379
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.5 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #700,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Afrikaners: Biography of a People (Reconsiderations in Southern African History)
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This crowning work by one of South Africa's most prominent social scientists is likely to become a baseline for interpreting Afrikaner history for a long time to come.(Foreign Affairs)
Magisterial.. The strength of the book lies in [Giliomee's] distillation of a lifetime's research and reflection into a single prodigious volume.(The Economist)
A book to welcome... it includes an account of the origins and demise of apartheid that must rank as the most sober, objective and comprehensive we have.(J. M. Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature)
A stunning achievement.(Athol Fugard)
About the Author
Hermann Giliomee, Professor of History at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, is the editor or author of thirteen books, including Negotiating South Africa’s Future, Awkward Embrace: One-Party Domination and Democracy in Industrialising Countries, From Apartheid to Nation-Building, and The Shaping of South African Society. In 1984 he founded Die Suid-Afrikaan, an Afrikaans journal of opinion, and he has been a regular columnist for the Cape Times, Rand Daily Mail, and other periodicals.
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Top Customer Reviews
Unfortuntely the effort required to impose order on the mass of information assembled has made the book somewhat one dimensional, repetitive and often tedious.
The Afrikaners were pioneers in a virtually unknown hinterland of exotic peoples and dramatic vistas. There is the impression that the author is a desk-bound historian insulated from the formative forces of geography, ethnography and zoology. In particular one is eager to learn much more of the physical context of the three most dramatic episodes of Afrikaner expansion into Southern Africa: life on the frontier; the Great Trek and the Boer War.
We can take the Great Trek as an example. Why did the trekkers favour particular routes? How did they deal with vast plains lacking surface water? What was the stock of wildlife they encountered? How were they resupplied with arms and ammunition?
A quote on the situation of trekkers in Natal gives an inkling of what is missing. They were "without compass, without guide, without experience, exposed to all obstacles nature put in (their) way, by insurmountable mountains reaching the clouds, exposed to serious wants and disappointments, surrounded and pursued by innumerable beasts of prey ...."
Instead of pratical details we have interminable description of the politics governing the use of non-white labour, church doctrine, the escape of Afrikanerdom from British domination and the search for a way to avoid eventual subjection to a black majority. These are fundamental topics but could have been dealt with in half the space. The level of detail will only be of interest to a diminishing number of specialized academic researchers.
The pace picks up as the final development of apartheid system and its implementation under Vervoerd are described. Even so the leaders of the "bantu" masses against which this system is directed remain shadowy figures - as do the unnamed "mentally deranged white man" that shot Vervoerd in the head in 1960, and the "deranged white messenger" who finally put an end to his life on the floor of House of Assembly in 1966. Who were these people?
The mystery of the grande finale is why the Afrikaaner leadership, aparently in full control of powerful security forces, sold their community so cheaply, failing to get firm guarantees of minority rights, particularly in the educational field. But perhaps, given the triumphalism of the African National Congress the outcome was inevitable. The result was political marginalisation.
But even for academics there is a serious limitation. In a 700-page book which, rather than proceed chronologically treats different themes separately, a compreehensive index is of great utility. Unfortunately that provided is inadequate.
There are also frequent references to a map, a key aid, non-existant in the soft-cover book.
I must say, this book is nothing short of a tour de force! I have read several books on South Africa, and I must admit that I was at first intimidated by this book’s size and appearance, which convinced me that it was a school book. But, while this book is eminently useful as a school book, it is still highly readable, making South Africa’s history interesting. It covers many details without sounding dry and academic.
So, while I have read several books on South Africa’s history, I can easily say that this is the best one that I have read so far. If you are interested in South Africa and the Boers, then this is the best book you can get on the subject. I give this book my highest recommendations!