How do we know, or think we know, what happened in the times before European colonialism? This question is the focus of a new book, Archives of Times Past: Conversations about South Africa’s Deep History, which explores particular sources of evidence on southern Africa’s history in the period before the colonial era.
Historians who specialise in researching southern African history in the centuries before the 1800s have learnt to use a wide range of materials from the past as source materials. What are these materials? Where can we find them? Who made them? When? Why? What are the problems with using them? The essays in the book are written by well-known historians, archaeologists and researchers. They deal with these questions from a range of perspectives and in illuminating ways. The essays capture how these scholars have explored these source materials and how they have written studies of them.
The book aims to make us think critically about where ideas about the time before the colonial era originate. It encourages us to think about why people in South Africa often refer to this ‘deep history’ when arguing about public affairs in the present. For example, people today refer constantly to the history of the Zulu kingdom in discussing who the next Zulu king should be.
The essays are written at a time when public discussion about the history of southern Africa before the colonial era is taking place more openly than at any other time in the last hundred years. They will appeal to students, academics, educationists, teachers, archivists, and heritage and museum practitioners and the general public.
About the Editors
Cynthia Kros, historian and heritage specialist, is an Honorary Research Associate of the History Workshop at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and an Honorary Research Associate of the Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative at the University of Cape Town.
John Wright is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a research associate in the Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative at the University of Cape Town.
Mbongiseni Buthelezi is Executive Director of the Public Affairs Research Institute, Johannesburg, South Africa. He has published widely in the fields of African literature, heritage studies, and governance in South Africa.
Helen Ludlow was head of History at the School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg until the end of 2016 lecturing in academic history and methodology. Her main research interest has been nineteenth-century Cape colonial history, with a focus on slave emancipation, missions, and teacher identity.
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Archives of Times Past: Conversations about South Africa’s Deep History is available online from the following retailers:
This work is based on research supported by the National Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences (www.nihss.ac.za).