‘I See You’: The Industrial and Commercial Workers Union of Africa, 1919-1930

2022-11-19T15:20:19+00:00July 4th, 2022|

The Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union of Africa (ICU) and its charismatic leader, Clements Kadalie, dominated the southern African political landscape of the 1920s. The movement demonstrated a wide spectrum of opposition to the established order. From humble beginnings in Cape Town in 1919, the ICU...

Francois le Vaillant: Travels into the interior of Africa via the Cape of Good Hope. Vol II

2022-04-09T13:00:58+00:00November 14th, 2021|

This volume of Le Vaillant’s Travels continues the narrative of his journey, begun in Volume 1, from the time of his arrival at Kok’s Kraal on the banks of the Great Fish River, where he pitched camp and remained from 12 October until 4 December 1782. This sojourn of two months was the longest time that Le Vaillant remained in any one place during the entirety of his journey

Sol T Plaatje – A life in letters

2022-07-19T09:16:11+00:00December 14th, 2020|

Sol Plaatje (1876–1932) was one of the best known political and literary figures of his generation – as journalist, writer and spokesman for his people. He spoke out against the oppressive policies of the South African government in the early decades of the twentieth century, and he is remembered for a number of important books – one of which is the diary he kept during the siege of Mafikeng, Native Life in South Africa (1916).

Indoda Ebisithanda (“The Man Who Loved Us”) – The Reverend James Laing among the amaXhosa, 1831-1836

2022-07-19T09:19:20+00:00September 4th, 2019|

This study is a critical edition of a section of the journals of the Reverend James Laing of the Glasgow Missionary Society. The first scholarly study of the Laing journals, this thesis seeks to contribute towards a new understanding of the early days of transcultural interchange on the Eastern Cape frontier. The only previous published work on Laing is William Govan's hagiographical Memorials of the Missionary Career of the Rev. James Laing, Missionary of the Free Church of Scotland in Kaffraria published in Glasgow by David Bryce and Son in 1875. This study attempts to make Laing's text as accessible to today's readers as possible. To this end, the text is a faithful transcription of the original, augmented by a contextual introduction, detailed footnotes and a comprehensive index

In a Time of Plague. Memories of the ‘Spanish’ Flu Epidemic of 1918 In South Africa

2021-11-15T20:20:16+00:00June 25th, 2018|

The so-called “Spanish” influenza epidemic of 1918 (tellingly dubbed “Black October” by contemporaries in South Africa) was the worst disease episode ever to hit the country. Part of the global pandemic which killed about 3% of the world’s inhabitants in little over a year, in hard-hit South Africa it claimed some 350,000 lives (or 5% of the population) in six weeks in September-October of 1918. During those dreadful weeks the country struggled to keep functioning in the face of this debilitating disease and consequent deaths. In flu-ravaged cities like Kimberley, Cape Town and Bloemfontein corpse-laden carts trundled through the streets to collect the dead and take them to hard-pressed cemeteries, scenes never seen before or since in the country; in the countryside silence reigned as deaths in kraals and on farms reduced helpless inhabitants to desperate straits. A whole generation of flu orphans appeared almost overnight. This volume graphically captures this short but unprecedented crisis in South Africa’s history through the memories of 127 survivors of the epidemic. Recorded on tape and in letters in the 1970s, these evoke the horror of “Black October”, providing unique, first-hand accounts of what these men and women saw and heard, how they coped medically, materially and psychologically and what mark this experience left on their lives. The memories of this very wide array of South Africans vividly evoke what it was like to live in and to live through a time of plague. As one survivor put it, “That’s worse than war.”

Hendrik Swellengrebel in Africa. Journals of Three Journeys in 1776-1777

2021-03-17T20:53:56+00:00June 25th, 2018|

Hendrik Swellengrebel was born at the Cape on 26 November 1734, the fifth child of Hendrik Swellengrebel Snr, at the time the Secretary of the Council of Policy, but from 1739 Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, and of Helena Wilhelmina ten Damme. After bidding farewell to his parents on 25 March 1746, Hendrik Jr travelled as an eleven-year-old boy to the Netherlands with the return fleet. Already then, his father intended to return to the Netherlands eventually. He had four sons and three daughters – what future did the Cape offer those children? So, he sent his sons to the Netherlands to further their studies. After their arrival there, they were taken care of by Rev. J. Schermer and his wife in Utrecht. Hendrik attended the Latin school and afterwards read law at Utrecht University. Not yet 21 years old, he completed his studies in 1755 and after that established himself as an attorney and also became a canon in the chapter at the Cathedral. In 1775 Hendrik Swellengrebel embarked on the VOC ship Alkemade, to pay a visit to the land of his birth, at that time no ordinary undertaking. The reasons for this visit were never explicitly revealed by him so far as is known. Certainly a desire to see his country of birth again played a role in this. Yet, it is not impossible that he also played with the idea of establishing himself at the Cape. His interest in the possibilities – including financial ones – offered by farming there, evident in his travel accounts and in his exchange of letters in the years thereafter, point in that direction. At the Cape, in 1776-1777, Hendrik made three journeys through the interior of the Cape of Good Hope, once even as far as the land of the Xhosa. His journals of these three journeys and the accompanying drawings commissioned by him were not published in his day and remained lying in the family archives in the Netherlands for over one-and-a-half centuries. In 1932 Dr E.C. Godée Molsbergen published ‘Journal of an overland journey that the undersigned Pieter Cloete made with Mr Hendrik Swellengrebel Esq. in the year 1776’, which he had found in the archive of the eighteenth Governor of the Cape, Joachim van Plettenberg, but which constituted only a brief summary of one of those journeys. The drawings themselves only became known even later, thanks to a publication in 1951 by A. Hallema, Die Kaap in 1776-1777. Akwarelle van Johannes Schumacher uit die Swellengrebel-Argief te Breda (The Cape in 1775-1777. Water Colours of Johannes Schumacher from the Swellengrebel Archive in Breda).

Selections from the letters of President M. T. Steyn, 1904-1910

2021-06-02T08:56:15+00:00June 24th, 2017|

President M.T. Steyn is one of the heroes Afrikaner history, leading the guerrilla war against the British from 1899-1902, and fiercely resisting submission. He was struck down by a neural disease in 1902 and was unable to participate in the negotiations that ended the war. In 1902 he went to Europe for treatment and, after a partial recovery, he returned to South Africa. Although he was unable to participate fully in post-war political events, he became an 'elder' statesman (still in his 40s) who was consulted by the leading South African politicians on such subjects as the creation of an Afrikaner nation, the self-government of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, and the making of Union. He returned briefly to political life as vice-chair of the National Convention in Durban, to decide the terms of Union. His determination to preserve a strong Afrikaner identity, combined with his wise counsel and generosity, made a great impression on the other participants, including old enemies like Dr L.S. Jameson. Sadly, his health was too poor for him to contribute to the new Union. The letters in this volume are an extraordinary record of courage and intelligence. Under other circumstances he might have played a much greater role in South Africa, even, perhaps, altering the course of events. At the same time, in the tempestuous, multi-cultural South Africa of today, 101 years after Steyn's death, many of his ideas are unacceptable, for, like his white compatriots, J.C. Smuts and J.X. Merriman, he could not imagine a society in which black men (let alone women) had a right to political equality. Yet this volume has relevance as it contributes, inter alia, to our understanding of political racism; of equal value is what it tells us about how to make a new country.

From Cattle-herding to Editor’s Chair: The Unfinished Autobiography of Richard Victor Selope Thema

2020-09-04T06:32:30+00:00July 24th, 2016|

Richard Victor Selope Thema (1886 - 1955) was one of the most influential black figures in South Africa in the twentieth century - yet little has been published about him until now. 'RV' - as he was known to his friends - was a leading member of the ANC for almost forty years from 1912, serving for many years on its National Executive. He was also a founder member of the All-African Convention, a elected member of the Natives Representative Council, and was in constant demand to serve on deputations and committees as one of the leading spokespersons for Africans of his generation. Thema was also widely recognised as the leading black journalist and intellectual of his time. Many of his early writings appeared in the ANC newspaper, Abanthu Batho, but he cemented his national reputation as founding editor of the Bantu World, a position he held for twenty years. Under his leadership, Bantu World became the leading organ of the black middle class in South Africa, and a generation of black writers launched their careers in its pages under his tutelage. It is still published today as the Sowetan. In his writings Thema was a tireless advocate of African rights and an implacable enemy of segregation. An 'Africanist' before that term was popularised by the Congress Youth League in the 1940s and 1950s, he can be considered an intellectual fore-father of both the Youth League and of the Pan-Africanists of the 1950s.

‘An Entirely Different World’: Russian Visitors to the Cape 1797-1870

2022-06-05T19:50:50+00:00July 24th, 2015|

The Russian view of the Cape as represented in this volume may be unique. During the period in question, Russia had no cultural, political or economic ties with South Africa. Russians saw the Cape only as a convenient stopover en route to the Far East, to their country’s distant domains that could not be reached by sea otherwise. The Cape was one of the ‘exotic’ lands they would visit on such journeys, their first and only introduction to the African continent. Although amazed and perplexed by the ‘entirely different world’ they found here, Russian travellers would often draw unexpected parallels between life in their motherland and the realities of the Cape Colony. The selections include memoirs of such important Russian personalities as Yuri Lisyansky, Vasily Golovnin, Ivan Goncharov and Konstantin Posyet. Most of the texts appear in English for the first time.

The World’s Great Question. Olive Schreiner’s South African Letters 1889-1920

2021-07-26T19:36:54+00:00July 24th, 2014|

The World’s Great Question features over 300 of Olive Schreiner’s key letters on South African people, politics and its racial order. They are often prophetic and can still send shivers down the spine. Immensely readable and insightful, her South African letters bring home Schreiner’s importance as one of the world’s most famous women and a foundational figure in South African literature and its political life at key junctures in its history;

Go to Top