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In this fresh and highly readable collection of South African biographical essays, a distinguished group of authors illuminates the lives of eleven colourful, complex men and women whose personal experiences throw fascinating light on the times in which they lived.
The individuals whose stories are told here are very different in time, in place and in work and at play, but are united by an abundantly rich humanity and the myriad ways in which they navigated their existence through the uneven terrain of South Africa's distant and more recent past. Including colonial administrators, activists, educationists, sportsmen, a poet, a painter and a pilot, Illuminating Lives is a wide-ranging and moving book that provides readers with striking and unexpected insights into our history.
Here are some intriguing South African lives well worth knowing about.
Bill Nasson's South Africa at War, 1939-1945 is the first history of South Africa's involvement in World War II to appear for a very long time. It is written by one of South Africa's leading historians, who has specialised in writing the history of war. With characteristic brio, erudition and good humour, Bill Nasson tells an illustrated story of South Africa at war against Nazi Germany, its unpreparedness at the start, its surprising success in rising to the challenge, and the huge impact the war had on South African society and on expectations of change. It explores the impact, both immediate and in a wider historical context, of the 1939-45 crisis upon the Union and its divided and often volatile society. Touching on a broad range of experiences and events - military, political, economic and social - here is an evocative portrayal of a largely neglected episode in South Africa's modern history.
The concentration camps of the Anglo-Boer War caused thousands of deaths and much suffering. But should the women and children in the camps only be seen as victims, or is there another story to be told? The War at Home tries to do just that. Firstly, it explores the unique strength of Boer women, who were often more vehemently anti-British than the men, and their role in supporting the Boer guerrilla fighters. There is also a chapter on the extraordinary Nonnie de la Rey (wife of General Koos de la Rey) who lived in the veld with her six children for nearly two years to avoid capture. A chapter on everyday life in the camps again points out how some camps were run more effectively than others and how for many women the biggest challenge was keeping boredom at bay. In an effort to stay busy, many young Boer women for instance received valuable training as nurse’s assistants. Another chapter on the clash of cultures between British doctors and Boer women explains why camp doctors started to blame the personal hygiene and mothering abilities of Boer women when they could not find ways to cure the dying children. The book also takes the suffering of black civilians in the black camps into account with a special focus on black children. As in the white camps, the majority of the 20 000 deaths in the black camps were children. Lastly, in the year in which the Women’s Monument in Bloemfontein celebrates its centenary, The War at Home looks critically at the meaning of the monument then and now.
History Matters is an eloquent selection of writings over four decades by Bill Nasson, one of South Africa's most popular and highly respected historians. The pieces in this compendium are lively and entertaining, written with wit, humour and a finely tuned sense of irony. Chapters cover the Anglo-Boer War, the two World Wars, cricket, District Six, schooldays and education, Spike Lee, Hollywood and history, Mandela and other political biographies, and a great many other topics. Resembling a pudding of spicy plums, this is a perfect book for anyone interested in South Africa and its history, and in a broader appreciation of tweaking the tail of life in the past.
More than Shakespeare, more than the invention of the railway, more than fair play, it was Empire which made Britain into Great Britain. By the early 20th century, that Empire covered around a quarter of the earth's surface, and embraced more than a quarter of its inhabitants, a mass of over 500 million people. From Australian sheep farmers to African nurses, all lived in an imperial world over which the Union Jack always fluttered, and on which it was commonly said the sun never set. From the pirate-ridden Atlantic and Caribbean of over four centuries ago to the success of the Falklands War, this extraordinary patchwork of territories and peoples was the creation of British ambition, ingenuity, and enterprise.
This book surveys South African history from the discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand in the late nineteenth century to the first democratic elections in 1994. Written by many of the leading historians of the country, it pulls together four decades of scholarship to present a detailed overview of South Africa during the twentieth century. It covers political, economic, social, and intellectual developments and their interconnections in a clear and objective manner. This book, the second of two volumes, represents an important reassessment of all the major historical events, developments, and records of South Africa and will be an important new tool for students and professors of African history worldwide, as well as the basis for further development and research.
The Boer War was a costly colonial conflict between the British Empire and the two independent Boer republics in South Africa. Pitting the superior armed might of British imperialism against two of the world's tiniest rural states, it nevertheless took almost three years for the Boer forces to be defeated. The war saw the first use by the British of civilian concentration camps and the employment of a `scorched earth' policy against a European enemy, while the Boer amateur armies organised as commandos to try to hold out against defeat. Britain's eventual victory laid the foundations of modern South Africa. Bill Nasson, Professor of History at the University of Stellenbosch, has fully revised and updated his earlier authoritative history of the conflict, taking account of the most recent scholarship and making use of Afrikaans sources as well as those in English. He places the Anglo-Boer War struggle of 1899-1902 in its historical context with other `small wars', such as the more recent ones in Iraq and Afghanistan, making this an essential book not only for anyone interested in the Boer War, but also in imperial history more generally, and in Britain's overseas colonial campaigns.
The South African War 1899–1902 is no longer treated as ‘a white man’s war’ by historians. Black South Africans were drawn into service by both sides, and the war affected the black communities in a variety of complex ways. Dr Nasson has written a closely focused regional study of the conflict in the Cape Colony, describing the dramatic participation of black people in the conduct of the war, and their subsequent exclusion from the fruits of peace. (The Abraham Esau, of the title, a patriotic coloured artisan, was murdered by Boer guerrillas.) Dr Nasson sets the conflict in the context of Cape political culture and social life at the turn of the century. This is a major contribution to South African and Imperial history.
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