South Africa in World History

South Africa in World History

South Africa in World History

South Africa in World History

Synopsis

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 conquestin 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.

Excerpt

This book is part of the New Oxford World History, an innovative series that offers readers an informed, lively, and up-to-date history of the world and its people that represents a significant change from the “old” world history. Only a few years ago, world history generally amounted to a history of the West—Europe and the United States—with small amounts of information about the rest of the world. Some versions of the old world history drew attention to every part of the world except Europe and the United States. Readers of that kind of world history might get the impression that somehow the rest of the world was made up of exotic people who had strange customs and spoke difficult languages. Still another kind of “old” world history presented the story of areas or peoples of the world by focusing primarily on the achievements of great civilizations. Readers learned of great buildings, influential world religions, and mighty rulers but little of ordinary people or more general economic and social patterns. Interactions among the world’s peoples were often told from only one perspective.

This series has a different perspective on world history. First, it is comprehensive, covering all countries and regions of the world and investigating the total human experience—even those of so-called “peoples without histories” living far from the great civilizations. “New” world historians thus share an interest in all of human history, even going back millions of years before there were written human records. A few “new” world histories even extend their focus to the entire universe, a “big history” perspective that dramatically shifts the beginning of the story back to the Big Bang. Some see the “new” global framework of world history today in terms of viewing the world from the vantage point of the moon, as one scholar put it. We agree. But we also want to take a close-up view, analyzing and reconstructing the significant experiences of all of humanity.

This is not to say that everything that has happened everywhere and in all time periods can be recovered or is worth knowing, but that there is much to be gained by considering both the separate and interrelated stories of different societies and cultures. Making these connections is still another crucial ingredient of the “new” world history. It emphasizes . . .

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