Martin Plaut

Martin Plaut is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study at the University of London. He was Africa editor, BBC World Service News, until 2013. He has since published three books on South Africa and Eritrea, including Promise and Despair: The First Struggle for a Non-Racial South Africa, also with Ohio University Press. He has advised the UK Foreign Office and the US State Department on African affairs.

Listed in: African History · Biography, Heads of State




Robert Mugabe is an African leader who sharply divides opinion. In this short biography, intended for a general audience, Sue Onslow and Martin Plaut explain Mugabe’s formative experiences, his evolution into a political manipulator and survivalist, and the complexity of the man who led Zimbabwe for its first four decades of independence.

Praise for the Ohio Short Histories of Africa series:
“I am a huge fan of Ohio University Press’s Ohio Short Histories of Africa series. I use them to teach my introductory-level African politics students about oppression, resistance, liberation, and corruption, and I recommend the books to anyone who asks as an affordable and accessible introduction to a wide range of topics in African studies.”

Laura Seay, The Washington Post




Promise and Despair · The First Struggle for a Non-Racial South Africa
By Martin Plaut

The struggle for freedom in South Africa goes back a long way. In 1909, a remarkable interracial delegation of South Africans traveled to London to lobby for a non-racialized constitution and franchise for all. Among their allies was Mahatma Gandhi, who later encapsulated lessons from the experience in his most important book, Hind Swaraj. Though the mission failed, the London debates were critical to the formation of the African National Congress in 1912.

“With violent protests in Pretoria and Cape Town against top-down imposition by the ANC of unwanted election candidates, this superb new book … could not be more timely.… The characters, backgrounds and qualities of the main actors from that time come to life with an almost contemporary vividness, indicating the deep structure of South Africa’s polity and the enduring relevance of this seminal period in its history.”

Mail and Guardian (South Africa)