Hot Best Seller

The Afrikaners: Biography of a People

Availability: Ready to download

This book is a biography of the Afrikaner people. A historian and journalist who was one of the earliest and staunchest Afrikaner opponents of apartheid, Hermann Giliomee weaves together life stories and historical interpretation to create a narrative history of the Afrikaners from their beginnings with the colonization of the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East India Comp This book is a biography of the Afrikaner people. A historian and journalist who was one of the earliest and staunchest Afrikaner opponents of apartheid, Hermann Giliomee weaves together life stories and historical interpretation to create a narrative history of the Afrikaners from their beginnings with the colonization of the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East India Company to the dismantling of apartheid and beyond. The Afrikaners emphasizes the crucial role played by historical actors without underplaying the impact of social forces over which they had little control. Throughout their history, Giliomee's Afrikaners are both colonizers and colonized. Actual or virtual servants of the Dutch East India Company, the Dutch "burghers" nonetheless owned slaves and commanded servant labor. The British conquests of 1795 and 1806 extended the rights of British subjects to Afrikaners, even as they took away the Afrikaners' political autonomy and confirmed an economic and cultural subordination that was only partly alleviated by their dominance of South African politics in the latter part of the twentieth century. Demographically squeezed between far more numerous Africans (and other nonwhite groups) and their more affluent and culturally confident English compatriots, the Afrikaners forged a language-based national identity in which die-hard defense of privilege and opposition to various forms of British domination are inextricably intertwined with fears about cultural and even physical group survival. This nationalism underlay the Great Trek, in which Afrikaners opposed the abolition of slavery and legalized racial discrimination by the British; the irony of their becoming the twentieth century's first fighters against imperial domination in the Boer War; and the Afrikaners' rise to political dominance over their English rivals and nonwhite South Africans alike, even as they remained economically and culturally subordinate to the former. This same language-based nationalism spawned the blunders and horrors of apartheid, but it also led the Afrikaners to relinquish power peacefully when this seemed the safest route to their survival as a people. While documenting--and in important ways revising--the history of the Afrikaners' pursuit of racial domination (as well as British contributions to that enterprise), Giliomee supplies Afrikaners' own, often divided, perspectives on their history, perspectives not always or entirely skewed by their struggle for privilege at Africans' expense. The result is not only a magisterial history of the Afrikaners but a fuller understanding of their history, which, for good or ill, resonates far beyond the borders of South Africa.


Compare

This book is a biography of the Afrikaner people. A historian and journalist who was one of the earliest and staunchest Afrikaner opponents of apartheid, Hermann Giliomee weaves together life stories and historical interpretation to create a narrative history of the Afrikaners from their beginnings with the colonization of the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East India Comp This book is a biography of the Afrikaner people. A historian and journalist who was one of the earliest and staunchest Afrikaner opponents of apartheid, Hermann Giliomee weaves together life stories and historical interpretation to create a narrative history of the Afrikaners from their beginnings with the colonization of the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East India Company to the dismantling of apartheid and beyond. The Afrikaners emphasizes the crucial role played by historical actors without underplaying the impact of social forces over which they had little control. Throughout their history, Giliomee's Afrikaners are both colonizers and colonized. Actual or virtual servants of the Dutch East India Company, the Dutch "burghers" nonetheless owned slaves and commanded servant labor. The British conquests of 1795 and 1806 extended the rights of British subjects to Afrikaners, even as they took away the Afrikaners' political autonomy and confirmed an economic and cultural subordination that was only partly alleviated by their dominance of South African politics in the latter part of the twentieth century. Demographically squeezed between far more numerous Africans (and other nonwhite groups) and their more affluent and culturally confident English compatriots, the Afrikaners forged a language-based national identity in which die-hard defense of privilege and opposition to various forms of British domination are inextricably intertwined with fears about cultural and even physical group survival. This nationalism underlay the Great Trek, in which Afrikaners opposed the abolition of slavery and legalized racial discrimination by the British; the irony of their becoming the twentieth century's first fighters against imperial domination in the Boer War; and the Afrikaners' rise to political dominance over their English rivals and nonwhite South Africans alike, even as they remained economically and culturally subordinate to the former. This same language-based nationalism spawned the blunders and horrors of apartheid, but it also led the Afrikaners to relinquish power peacefully when this seemed the safest route to their survival as a people. While documenting--and in important ways revising--the history of the Afrikaners' pursuit of racial domination (as well as British contributions to that enterprise), Giliomee supplies Afrikaners' own, often divided, perspectives on their history, perspectives not always or entirely skewed by their struggle for privilege at Africans' expense. The result is not only a magisterial history of the Afrikaners but a fuller understanding of their history, which, for good or ill, resonates far beyond the borders of South Africa.

30 review for The Afrikaners: Biography of a People

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This took a long time to read!"laughing" but I did it for my husband who is Afrikans. I feel this is the only book I have read with an honest look at these people with a rich history filled with the good and the bad. Not unlike my own American history. This took a long time to read!"laughing" but I did it for my husband who is Afrikans. I feel this is the only book I have read with an honest look at these people with a rich history filled with the good and the bad. Not unlike my own American history.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Wessel van Rensburg

    After having read some reviews on here of Giliomee's magnum opus I just had to write mine. Others' reviews mention things like "Recommended to anyone who wants to know about White Africans". That is a rather reductive take on what Giliomee wrote. Granted it's a thick tome and it covers a lot, but Giliomee is at pains to point out for example that - the first person to call himself an Afrikaner, Hendrik Biebouw, had a sister that was mixed race. He points out that the first written Afrikaans are After having read some reviews on here of Giliomee's magnum opus I just had to write mine. Others' reviews mention things like "Recommended to anyone who wants to know about White Africans". That is a rather reductive take on what Giliomee wrote. Granted it's a thick tome and it covers a lot, but Giliomee is at pains to point out for example that - the first person to call himself an Afrikaner, Hendrik Biebouw, had a sister that was mixed race. He points out that the first written Afrikaans are Koranic prayer verses. And that Reverend Du Toit, in whose parish the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners was founded, was a parish of poor whites and coloureds. He debunks Afrikaner nationalist myths like Slagtersnek. Instead of anti-British rebels, the Bezuidenhouts of Slagtersnek were layabouts. Yet it's true to say that Giliomee adores Afrikaners as a parent would a child, warts and all. Central to the story he is telling is of a people who was not pure as the driven snow (biologically or morally). AND there is a certain wistful lament running throughout that 'white' Afrikaners, through their actions, have estranged brown Afrikaners. Yes, Giliomee is not simply a historian. And although politically liberal in many ways he is I suspect an ethnic nationalist (but certainly not one based on race). Afrikaans is what he thinks binds all Afrikaners together. In this, he is probably like a modern-day NP van Wyk Louw, but without the poetry. Another thread that runs through the reviews on Goodreads is an argument that Giliomee's is the most comprehensive or honest, the real history - of South Africa. It certainly may come across this way, because of the time frame it covers, its detail, its depth, the passion with which its told. There are reasons for this. Black South Africa is a relatively speaking not as coherent an identity: barely 100 years old, comprising many - often geographically specific - groups making competing claims on identity like Sothos, Zulus, Tswanas etc. It's ironically because of - or rather in reaction to- Afrikaners (and later the British) that black South Africa think of itself as one group. Afrikaners spread out all over Southern Africa long before the British and the contours of the modern South African state is largely a reflection of this. As ironic though is that it's precisely because Afrikaners were almost everywhere to be found in South Africa that they are a minority everywhere today. Neither do English speaking whites have a clearly defined identity. Many white English speaking South Africans as recently as the 1960s were loyal first (or at least equally) to the UK. And a lot of their cultural references remain outside the country to this day. A second reason is that Afrikaners, like black South Africa, were subject to British cultural domination inside the country, but also outside. From early on what you read about them was from the British (and later the Anglosphere's) perspective. Many of these accounts were fair, but some were biased, jaundiced and even just written in the spirit of jingoism. Afrikaans at the same time built quite a literary canon, and Afrikaners a very particular identity. Afrikaners told complex stories about themselves and South Africa in Afrikaans. But that canon of a singular identity has rarely been given wider circulation in English. And this is what Giliomee taps into. There are some things Giliomee does not get right. The Battle for Cuito Cuanavale for example. If war is politics by other means then Fidel Castro marginally won this round. Giliomee also veers away from Marxist scholar Dan O'Meara's class-based accounts of Afrikaner Nationalism too much (although he does mention it), and it is to his history's detriment. But one point other reviewers make that I do agree with is that this is a major work. It is in my opinion impossible to write about South Africa and not to take account of this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gordon Greaves

    Still reading but a phenomenal work on an amazing people. Given me a lot of new insights into the backstory of Afrikaners. Warts and all, one cannot help but admire this resilient, enduring people. Best summed up by Giliomee's account of Retief's wife's letter to the VOC after her husband and his group were massacred: "Send more supplies. We're staying." Or as the say in Afrikaans: 'Ons vat nie jou kak nie. Ons bly.' Still reading but a phenomenal work on an amazing people. Given me a lot of new insights into the backstory of Afrikaners. Warts and all, one cannot help but admire this resilient, enduring people. Best summed up by Giliomee's account of Retief's wife's letter to the VOC after her husband and his group were massacred: "Send more supplies. We're staying." Or as the say in Afrikaans: 'Ons vat nie jou kak nie. Ons bly.'

  4. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    This very thick, heavy book looks like a text book - and sometimes reads like a text book - but the history of the white immigrants to South Africa is really interesting. If you like history, especially colonial history, give this one a look. I am reading it slowly, but have found it is better for me to digest a book like this in sections.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bevan

    This is a brilliant and important book. It is, and will remain for some time, the authoritative history of the Afrikaner people - and is indeed an significant work of general South African history. Giliomee succeeds in compacting vast amounts of material, spanning 350 years of history, into a single volume, without leaving explanatory holes. Giliomee's prose is not exactly electrifying - as another reviewer said, it sometimes reads like a textbook - but the substance is so interesting and tightl This is a brilliant and important book. It is, and will remain for some time, the authoritative history of the Afrikaner people - and is indeed an significant work of general South African history. Giliomee succeeds in compacting vast amounts of material, spanning 350 years of history, into a single volume, without leaving explanatory holes. Giliomee's prose is not exactly electrifying - as another reviewer said, it sometimes reads like a textbook - but the substance is so interesting and tightly woven that I remained gripped throughout; I can't remember any dull or dispensable sections. Giliomee is not a populariser, but he is a masterful synthesiser, which is enough to make the text compelling and relatively accessible. Occasionally I was left wanting more (for example, I would've liked to know a bit more about the cosmopolitan Afrikaner elite at the Cape; the book follows other Afrikaner historiography in dwelling a bit too much, I thought, on the mythologised trekkers). But these minor omissions are probably inevitable if the book was to remain a manageable length. No single book can cover everything. But this one left me immeasurably better informed, and inspired to learn more about South African history. Unfortunately, Giliomee released an ill-advised updated edition in 2011, adding two chapters on the Afrikaners during and after the transition to democracy. They are woefully unbalanced, even petty, yawing away from the standards of scholarly rigour which characterised the remainder of the book. The lack of balance is risible at times. If you can avoid the updated edition, and get hold of the original (to which my five-star rating applies), please do so!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dudu Kadouri

    Truly a masterpiece. This should be required reading in any history course that focuses on African politics or sociology course. How Giliomee details the formation of the Afrikaner people to what they consist of today, the way they weathered and absorbed various other peoples, their great migrations and leaders - truly an incredible piece of well-referenced detailed research. It is palatable, interesting, and frankly, the only TRUE and honest depiction of South Africa you can even find in jaded Truly a masterpiece. This should be required reading in any history course that focuses on African politics or sociology course. How Giliomee details the formation of the Afrikaner people to what they consist of today, the way they weathered and absorbed various other peoples, their great migrations and leaders - truly an incredible piece of well-referenced detailed research. It is palatable, interesting, and frankly, the only TRUE and honest depiction of South Africa you can even find in jaded Mandellian world of post-colonial African literature. The main point that Giliomee does so well in reinforcing is that the Afrikaner peoples have as strong a national right to the country of South Africa - and in fact were there preceeding the eventual usurpers, the Zulu Nation in their modern reincarnation - the ANC. Recommended to anyone who wants to know about White Africans, the history of South Africa, or the formation of modern nations and the sad reality behind the "nationalist" movements of post-colonial Africa.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Everett F.

    This book provides long, but interesting history of the Afrikaner people of South Africa from their beginnings in the seventeenth century to the early part of the current century's first decade. Overall, I found the book enlightening and at times challenging or reinforcing what I already knew to be true, and it also brought me to new facts and dispelled some falsehoods along the way. What I liked about the book was the way in which he described the difficulties successive governments (Dutch, Bri This book provides long, but interesting history of the Afrikaner people of South Africa from their beginnings in the seventeenth century to the early part of the current century's first decade. Overall, I found the book enlightening and at times challenging or reinforcing what I already knew to be true, and it also brought me to new facts and dispelled some falsehoods along the way. What I liked about the book was the way in which he described the difficulties successive governments (Dutch, British, etc.) had with controlling the Afrikaners and their descendants, beginning from the rise of the first "free burghers" (people willing to make out a living in areas beyond the borders of the original Cape Colony), to the situation that their descendants faced in the early 2000s in the nine years after the "new" South Africa's dawn. Afrikaners are, like all people, a complex sort. Gilliomee notes this well. He also points out that the Afrikaners are far from a racially pure people; they generally are of Dutch, African, French, German, Arab, Spanish, and even Jewish descent, plus a few other contributions along the way. As the author shows (and I knew this before), the first Afrikaners were often the children of relationships between Dutchmen and nonwhite women—be they indigenous or otherwise. Over time, a large population of mixed-race persons developed, and as more people from a variety of other parts of Europe and the world came along, they too added themselves into the mix. Why so many mixed persons? The Cape lacked white women in its earliest days, resulting in VOC employees sexually uniting with colored women of a variety of backgrounds. Only when white women arrived in large numbers did color lines (says Gilliomee) begin to harden, and even then, those lines were never as hard as they were in the English colonies (even though England had interests in the area dating from James I's time—see "The Rise and Fall of Krugerism," by John Scoble and H. R. Abercrombie). Such a radical mixture impacted the local variety of Dutch as well, paving the way for it to eventually develop into Afrikaans thanks in part to indentured servants just learning Dutch. In this way, it can be said that the Afrikaners are the prototypical South Floridians, being a mix of several ethnic groups and races, which resonated with me the most. I also liked Gilliomee's (or, at least, his publisher's) inclusion of footnotes throughout the text, which are a great aid to the scholar or general reader wishing to corroborate the things Gilliomee says. Now, I'll discuss some things I didn't like. While the book was good overall, it could have been improved in certain areas. The beginning chapters were rather dry and at times read more like a textbook than an actual monograph. I understand the book is rather large and needs time to read in full, but he should've at least tried to make the book a little more engaging in the beginning. Additionally, I did notice that at times (and this was the most noticeable towards the end) he aired his own personal grievances at the Nationalist government, whining about Verwoerd's misdeeds while giving the ANC a (mostly) free pass. I can understand why many Afrikaners even today have issues with the man, and it's not hard to see why. He also makes some pretty inflammatory statements that might offend or upset some South African readers. At the day's end, I will rate "The Afrikaners" three stars out of five. While the scholarship is certainly first-rate, and there certainly several questions left to ponder, the book could have been better. Gilliomee should have refrained from whining at the end and broadcasting his pro-ANC or liberal sympathies. Still, a nice book overall. Not only is it a history of the Afrikaners, it is a history of South Africa, too.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Anne Cupero

    Excellent history, unknown at all to many, at least it was for me. It is very balanced; Giliomee is an Afrikaner but he doesn't show bias toward his people. The one thing I really could have used were maps, and I think at least one publication included maps, because they were referenced, but my book had none. It would have gotten five stars, but for that. Excellent history, unknown at all to many, at least it was for me. It is very balanced; Giliomee is an Afrikaner but he doesn't show bias toward his people. The one thing I really could have used were maps, and I think at least one publication included maps, because they were referenced, but my book had none. It would have gotten five stars, but for that.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Zirkle

    Phenomenal Author

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dan O'Meara

    A sad apology from someone who really should know better, probe deeper.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mhd

    I read the first 27 pages: good, but maybe too detailed. I do want to try again someday. HIGHLY recommended by a South African I met.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Caro Carl Janse van Rensburg

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marchand Meyer

  14. 4 out of 5

    hennie bouer

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Angus

  16. 4 out of 5

    Renée Hunter

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chels S

  19. 4 out of 5

    Miriam

  20. 5 out of 5

    Loraine

  21. 4 out of 5

    Riccardo Van leeuwenhoek

  22. 4 out of 5

    Leslie De lange

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hanno Cornelius

  24. 5 out of 5

    David

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jason

  27. 4 out of 5

    Scott

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rikus Van

  29. 4 out of 5

    Srdjan Avramov

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michiel

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...