Reading History

Ian R. Smith explores the many titles covering the Boer War.

It used to be known as 'The Boer War'. That it is now called 'The South African War' is just one indication of the historiographical revolution which has taken place with regard to South African history during the past twenty years. The old, Anglocentric view of the war was part of a whole tradition which treated South Africa as a white-settler outpost in the evolution of the British Empire-Commonwealth. With the demise of that Empire, South African history has come to be regarded in a new light. The writing of African history, and the study of how poor, farming societies are transformed by industrialisation (in this case as a result of gold and diamond mining) have left their mark on the subject, as has an intense preoccupation with the process by which white Afrikaner supremacy came to be established in a multi-racial society.

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