“This fine translation of P. J. van der Merwe’s classic study on the trekboers makes available to English readers a major study of European frontier expansion in South Africa. Although van der Merwe was blinkered by adherence to the racially exclusivist Afrikaaner nationalism of his time, he was a first-rate historian who used original sources with care and intelligence. This study of the trekboers still provides valuable insights into the process of settler expansion in frontier South Africa in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.”
Leonard Guelke, Professor of Geography at Waterloo University, Ontario
“A timely translation of a forgotten masterpiece of Afrikaaner history.”
Robert C.-H. Shell, History Department, Princeton University
Petrus Johannes Van der Merwe wrote three of the most significant books on the history of South Africa before he was 35 years old. His trilogy, of which The Migrant Farmer is the first volume, has become a classic that no student of Cape colonial history of the seventeenth, eighteenth or nineteenth century can ignore. Van der Merwe was unique among Afrikaner historians in that he focused not on the single event known as the Great Trek, but on the greater migration, nearly three hundred years long, of peoples of Dutch, French and German descent out from the victualling station at Cape Town after their arrival there in 1652. In the process he pioneered new directions in historical writing decades before they became fashionable among other South African historians.
Van der Merwe was less interested in politics than in the social, cultural, economic and religious lives of his subjects. He asked questions about such daily concerns as work, food, property owning, private and public worship, leisure activities, fashions, the environment and about the farmers’ relations with their neighbors, both white and black.
The Migrant Farmer (Die Trekboer in die Geskiedenis van die Kaapkolonie, 1657-1842) was published in Cape Town in Afrikaans in 1938. Beck’s English translation will allow scholars worldwide the opportunity to use, or challenge, this pioneering study of South Africa.
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E.H. Carr said: “Before you study the history, study the historian.” Written history often tells us more about the historian’s own times than it does of the times about which he is writing. The historians and the way in which each generation has rewritten history in the light of its own preoccupations is the subject of The Changing Past. This is the first book-length survey in English that covers all the main trends in South African historiography.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Thai poets produced epics depicting elaborate myths and legends which intermingled the human, natural, and supernatural worlds. One of the most famous of these classical compositions is the Samuttakhoot kham chan, presented here in English for the first time as The Tale of Prince Samuttakote.
Environmental history in southern Africa has only recently come into its own as a distinct field of historical inquiry. While natural resources lie at the heart of all environmental history, the field opens the door to a wide range of inquiries, several of which are pioneered in this collection. South Africa's Environmental History offers a series of local and particular studies followed by more general commentary and comparative studies.