Forty Lost Years
The Apartheid State and the Politics of the National Party, 1948 to 1994

By Dan O'Meara

Forty Lost Years is a penetrating analysis of the rise and demise of the National Party’s long and violent rule in South Africa. Building on the author’s earlier study of Afrikaner nationalism (Volkskapitalisme), this pioneering new work is the first attempt to explain the ongoing conflicts inside the National Party in the context of the broader political struggles in and around the apartheid state.

This book offers unique insight into the bleakest period in South African politics—the years from D. F. Malan’s surprise victory in the 1948 election to the concession of power by F. W. de Klerk and South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994. This is more than just compelling history. Dan O’Meara questions how the past both shapes the present and limits the future. He argues that for us to gauge what kind of change is possible in the new South Africa, we need to understand the politics of the apartheid era.

Exhaustively researched and fully illustrated with contemporary photographs and cartoons, Forty Lost Years is a multifaceted and subtle analysis of many aspects of South African politics since World War II. The author delves into the nature and functioning of the apartheid economy, the political role of big business and foreign governments, military strategy, the evolution of Afrikaner literature, and the NP’s changing relationship with the Afrikaner Broederbond. Underlying his complex and readable narrative is a concern both with the modes of explaining change and the dynamics of the transition process.


Born and raised in South Africa, Dan O’Meara holds degrees from the universities of the Witwatersrand and Sussex. He is the author of the highly acclaimed Volkskapitalisme, and coauthor of The Struggle for South Africa as well as The Kingdom of Swaziland. He has taught at universities in South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Canada. Currently on the faculty of the political science department at l’Université du Québec à Montréal, he is the cofounder and director of the Canadian Research Consortium on Southern Africa.

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Political Science · African History · History · African Studies

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978-0-8214-1173-5
Out-of-print