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Travel Guide 2   >   South Africa   >   History


South African History

Here are some books about the history of South Africa:

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Books about South African History

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The South Africa Reader: History, Culture, Politics (The World Readers)

Duke University Press Books
Paperback (624 pages)

The South Africa Reader: History, Culture, Politics (The World Readers)
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The South Africa Reader is an extraordinarily rich guide to the history, culture, and politics of South Africa. With more than eighty absorbing selections, the Reader provides many perspectives on the country's diverse peoples, its first two decades as a democracy, and the forces that have shaped its history and continue to pose challenges to its future, particularly violence, inequality, and racial discrimination. Among the selections are folktales passed down through the centuries, statements by seventeenth-century Dutch colonists, the songs of mine workers, a widow's testimony before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and a photo essay featuring the acclaimed work of Santu Mofokeng. Cartoons, songs, and fiction are juxtaposed with iconic documents, such as "The Freedom Charter" adopted in 1955 by the African National Congress and its allies and Nelson Mandela's "Statement from the Dock" in 1964. Cacophonous voices—those of slaves and indentured workers, African chiefs and kings, presidents and revolutionaries—invite readers into ongoing debates about South Africa's past and present and what exactly it means to be South African.

A History of South Africa, Fourth Edition

By Leonard Thompson

Paperback (512 pages)

A History of South Africa, Fourth Edition
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  • Yale University Press
Product Description:
A magisterial history of South Africa, from the earliest known human inhabitation of the region to the present. Lynn Berat updates this classic text with a new chapter chronicling the first presidential term of Mbeki and ending with the celebrations of the centenary of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress in January 2012.
“A history that is both accurate and authentic, written in a delightful literary style.”—Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Boer War: A History From Beginning to End

By Hourly History

Released: 2018-02-06
Kindle Edition (56 pages)

Boer War: A History From Beginning to End
Product Description:

Boer War

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Read On Your Computer, MAC, Smartphone, Kindle Reader, iPad, or Tablet.

This book provides an introductory text to one of the most intriguing wars of modern times—a war that saw several innovations, like the use of heliography and indirect fire, and caused the complete overhaul of the great Imperial British fighting machine in its aftermath. It also tells of the first example of the brilliant use of guerrilla warfare by the people who, to this day, have never been outclassed; the Boer on commando.
On the other hand, the Boer War is also an intensely emotional journey cutting to the very core of the horror of war; leaving women and children in a deliberately destroyed landscape, watching their home and all their possessions burn to the ground.

Inside you will read about...

✓ The Causes of the War
✓ The Commando System
✓ Phase One
✓ Phase Two
✓ Phase Three
✓ The Concentration Camps
✓ A Gentleman’s War
And much more!

This book sets out to give a broad overview so that the interested reader will be able to find a point of entry to study further. Perhaps more people studying and understanding this subject is the only way to finally know, “When is a war not a war?”

South Africa: History in an Hour

By Anthony Holmes

Released: 2012-04-05
Kindle Edition (804 pages)

South Africa: History in an Hour
Product Description:

Love history? Know your stuff with History in an Hour.

With the passing of Nelson Mandela, ‘the father of the nation’, comes the end of an era, and the moment to look back on his remarkable saving, and remaking, of South Africa. After years of oppression and racial inequality, concentrated violence and apartheid, Mandela led the country to unite ‘for the freedom of us all’ as the country’s first black President.

SOUTH AFRICA: HISTORY IN AN HOUR gives a lively account of the formation of modern South Africa, from the first contact with seventeenth-century European sailors, through the colonial era, the Boer Wars, apartheid and the establishment of a tolerant democracy in the late twentieth century. Here is a clear and fascinating overview of the emergence of the ‘Rainbow Nation’.

Know your stuff: read about South African history in just one hour.

South Africa in World History (New Oxford World History)

By Iris Berger

Oxford University Press USA
Paperback (208 pages)

South Africa in World History (New Oxford World History)
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  • Oxford University Press USA
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This volume begins in the early centuries of the Common Era with the various groups of people who had settled in southern Africa. Stone Age foragers, farmers with iron technology, and pastoralists all interacted to create a complex society before Europeans arrived. In the seventeenth century, Dutch settlers developed a colonial society based on the menial labor of indigenous inhabitants of the Cape and slaves imported from the East Indies and other parts of Africa.

British conquest in the early nineteenth century brought an end to slavery, as well as new forms of colonial domination, tension between the British and the original Dutch settlers, armed struggle between expanding European communities and Africans (including the highly militarized Zulu kingdom), and intensive missionary activity that transformed many African societies. The discovery of diamonds and gold in the late nineteenth century brought industrialization based on migrant labor, new clashes between British and Africaaners, the final conquest of African societies, and new European migrants. During the twentieth-century, despite further economic development, African communities were increasingly impoverished. New forms of racial domination lead to the implementation of apartheid in 1948 and heightened political organizing among both African and Africaaner nationalists. The intensification of resistance in the 1970s and '80s coupled with drastic changes in the international balance of power brought an end to the apartheid state in 1994 and an intensified struggle to overcome apartheid's economic and political legacy by building a new nonracial society.

The book emphasizes social and cultural history, focusing on people's interactions and identities according to race, class, gender, religion and ethnicity. It also addresses changes in literature (both oral and written), music, and the arts and draws on the extensive biographical and autobiographical literature to provide a personal focus for the discussion of major themes. While this emphasis reflects dominant trends in historical scholarship for the past two decades, it also includes recent material on environmental history and relationships between African Americans and South Africans. Where relevant, it highlights comparisons between South African and U.S. history.

A Military History of Modern South Africa

By Ian van der Waag

Released: 2018-04-02
Hardcover (420 pages)

A Military History of Modern South Africa
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Twentieth-century South Africa saw continuous, often rapid and fundamental socioeconomic and political change. The century started with a brief but total war. Less than ten years later Britain brought the conquered Boer republics and the Cape and Natal colonies together into the Union of South Africa.

The Union Defence Force (UDF, later SADF), was deployed during most of the major wars of the century as well as a number of internal and regional struggles: the two world wars, Korea, uprising and rebellion on the part of Afrikaner and black nationalists, and industrial unrest. The century ended as it started, with another war. This was a flash point of the Cold War, which embraced more than just the subcontinent and lasted a long, thirty years. The outcome included the final withdrawal of foreign troops from southern Africa, the withdrawal of South African forces from Angola and Namibia, and the transfer of political power away from a white elite to a broad-based democracy.

This book is the first study of the South African armed forces as an institution and of the complex roles that these forces played in the wars, rebellions, uprisings and protests of the period. It deals in the first instance with the evolution of South African defense policy, the development of the armed forces and the people who served in and commanded them. It also places the narrative within the broader national past, to produce a fascinating study of a century packed full of episode and personality in which South Africa was uniquely embroiled in three total wars.

Table of Contents

list of maps
list of figures
list of tables


Chapter One: South Africa, 1899–1902: The Last Gentleman’s War?
The geopolitical landscape and the rival strategies
Boer and Briton
The Boer offensive and the battles of the frontiers
The British invasion of the republics
The change in Boer strategy
The British counterinsurgency strategy: logistics, blockhouses, mobile columns, camps
Drives: mobile columns and armoured trains
Boer tactics
Political warfare
The butcher’s bill

Chapter Two: Integration and Union, 1902–1914
Empire, military organisation and the threat perception
Pacification of the highveld and creation of the Transvaal Volunteers
The politics of military integration: the forging of the Union Defence Force

Chapter Three: The First World War, 1914–1918
The politics of participation
A bad beginning: gambits and crises
Military reform and the second invasion of South West Africa
Raising and dispatch of expeditionary forces
German East Africa, 1915–1918
The Middle East: Egypt and Palestine
France: mud and trenches

Chapter Four: The Inter-war Years, 1919–1939
Defence policy, strategic calculations and threat perception
Demobilisation, rationalisation and reorganisation
Technology, military innovation and organisational politics
Politics: domestic and Commonwealth
Revised threat perception and policy change
Political opposition and mobilisation

Chapter Five: The Second World War, 1939–1945
Politics, domestic and imperial
A house divided: subversion, propaganda and secret agents
The mobilisation of the Union Defence Force
Home waters: the expansion of an air force and the creation of a navy
Production and consumption
Military operations in Africa, June 1940 to November 1942
The 1943 election and the politics of reorganisation
Military operations in Europe, April 1944 to May 1945
Human impact of a total war: prisoners, partisans, pregnancies

Chapter Six: Change and Continuity: The Early Cold War, 1945–1966
Defence policy, threat perceptions and counterstrategies
Deployment: Berlin and Korea
Erasmus and the SADF: force design and military capability
The revitalisation of the SADF

Chapter Seven: Hot War in Southern Africa, 1959–1989
The changing strategic landscape and threat perception
PW Botha, ‘total strategy’, and the shaping of defence policy
The strategic and tactical conditions of the Angolan war
Internal security and a renewed armed struggle
External security, 1978–1984: cross-border raids, envelopments
Revolt in the townships
External security, 1984–1986
Incipient revolution, 1986–1989

Chapter Eight: The South African National Defence Force, 1994 to circa 2000
Toward a post-apartheid defence policy
The transformation of the military: integration, rationalisation and demobilisation
The National Peacekeeping Force (NPKF): the first integration test
The politics of integration and transformation
New roles for the armed forces
Conclusion: (Dis)Continuities


A Concise History of South Africa (Cambridge Concise Histories)

By Robert Ross

Brand: Cambridge University Press
Paperback (272 pages)

A Concise History of South Africa (Cambridge Concise Histories)
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Lays emphasis on the continuing influence of the country's African heritage whilst also chronicling the processes of colonial conquest and of economic development stemming from the industrial revolution. This is followed by an analysis of the fundamental political changes South Africa has undergone, and a background for understanding those many things which have not changed.

The War in South Africa Its Cause and Conduct

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Released: 2012-05-11
Kindle Edition (89 pages)

The War in South Africa Its Cause and Conduct
Product Description:
This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.

A Short History of South Africa

By Gail Nattrass

Biteback Publishing
Released: 2018-07-03
Paperback (304 pages)

A Short History of South Africa
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A brief, general account of the history of South Africa that uncovers the first evidence of hominid existence to the wars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that led to the establishment of modern South Africa, the horrors of Apartheid, and the optimism following its collapse, as well as the prospects and challenges for the future. This readable and thorough account, illustrated with maps and photographs, is the culmination of a lifetime of researching and teaching the broad spectrum of South African history.

Illustrated History of South Africa: The Real Story (Expanded Third Edition)

By Editors of Reader's Digest

Readers Digest
Released: 1995-04-01
Hardcover (560 pages)

Illustrated History of South Africa: The Real Story (Expanded Third Edition)
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Surveys the history of South Africa from its early civilizations to significant twentieth-century events


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