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on 5 September 2017
Cycling across the harsh and beautiful wilderness which is Namibia and the northern Cape Province of South Africa, you occasionally come across a well-maintained dorp, or small town. The remaining Afrikaner population found there, while very much in the minority, are tough, humorous and welcoming. These people are the subject of Giliomee’s excellent study, which runs to 715 closely-printed pages plus an introduction, bibliography and index. The book is beautifully written, but never an easy read. Throughout, politicians and poets, clerics and generals are quoted. It starts with the epigraph, “To live without a past is worse than to live without a future” and ends, “People turn to history not to know how to behave or…succeed, but to know who they are.”

How the Afrikaners came into being as a people and how they ventured into the interior in the Great Trek is explained, the latter an experience which continues to resonate with how Afrikaners live now. Giliomee is right to identify their uniqueness as an African tribe of European descent, and how in the process of decolonisation, there was simply no European homeland for them to flee to. The Afrikaans language, or Taal, derived from Dutch, but simplified in grammar and different in pronunciation, was decisive in creating and maintaining their identity.

Defeated in the 2nd Anglo- Boer War, “the 20th century’s first anti-colonial war”, rural Afrikaners were impoverished. Their fortunes changed. Through the rise of the National Party (NP), and the introduction of apartheid as an intellectual concept, Afrikaners ruled South Africa unopposed from 1948 to the 1990s. The concept’s apparent salvation was however to become a curse, as international sanctions, internal violence and border wars took their toll. With the end of the Cold War, the white minority in South Africa was increasingly friendless, facing the demographic realities of a rapidly growing black population that could be resisted no longer. In negotiating with the ANC, the Afrikaners were able to secure”surrender without defeat” but, Giliomee argues, the real opportunity of creating a federal state protecting minority interests (of the Afrikaners themselves and others), was missed.

Economic success and improvement in education and social services (ironically, for all races) under a segregationist and pariah NP is contrasted with subsequent economic decay, sleaze and violence (with one of the worst murder rates in the world) under the ANC. This negative view of the ANC under Mbeki (and now Zuma) parallels RW Johnson’s “How Long Will South Africa Survive”. Johnson ascribes it both to the ANC following a state socialist model favouring its own cadres and ignoring minorities and economic reality; and a reversion to a form of African tribalism, where the ‘Big Man’ lives in his kraal, surrounded by his wives and sycophants.

For Afrikaners South Africa nonetheless remains the ‘Beloved Country’. Those who have emigrated since regime change have been largely successful economically and socially, but have mourned “for South Africa in the same way as one who had been parted from a beloved by death.” Giliomee’s work is an extended study in political and cultural history, with relevance beyond contemporary South Africa. I would urge you to read and re-read it.
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on 22 March 2005
This fascinating book is subtitled, "Biography of a People," and it certainly lives up to it. The book follows the history of the Boers of South Africa, from their arrival in the seventeenth century, through to the final collapse of apartheid and beyond (the book having been published in 2003). Along the way, the reader is treated to an in-depth and yet highly readable history that makes South African history come alive in an exciting and highly informative way.
I must say, this book is nothing short of a tour de force! I have read several books on South Africa, and I must admit that I was at first intimidated by this book's size and appearance, which convinced me that it was a school book. But, while this book is eminently useful as a school book, it is still highly readable, making South Africa's history interesting. It covers many details without sounding dry and academic.
So, while I have read several books on South Africa's history, I can easily say that this is the best one that I have read so far. If you are interested in South Africa and the Boers, then this is the best book you can get on the subject. I give this book my highest recommendations!
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on 30 July 2009
An interpreted history, The Afrikaners, is a deeply engrossing and thought provoking work. As an Afrikaner himself, Hermann Giliomee, brings a largely dispassionate and objective analysis to the emotionally charged history of a South African people. In particular, I admire the content for its ability to dispel the many Afrikaner founding myths that I was taught in school during the 1980s. For those of us who have often thought that the Great Trek and the Anglo Boer War are the defining moments of the Afrikaner, Giliomee offers an alternate perspective. In shedding centuries of subjugation and finally apartheid itself, the Afrikaner is finally on a journey unhindered by the Raka that has plagued the soul of a people for far too long. Giliomee delivers on his opening promise; to understand is not to pardon, but there is no harm in understanding.
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on 17 September 2015
This book tells the story of the building of the Afrikaans race. Before you condemn them you need to try and imagine yourself living in a fierce country inhabited, initially by the Hottentots and the Bushmen who couldn't live with the Dutch East India company and moved north. Conan Doyle was originally a doctor in the Great Boer War and wote a history of this war, called, simply, "The Great Boer War". The following was his first paragraph of his book and might give you an insite of the Afrikaner:

Take a community of Dutchmen of the type of those who defended themselves for fifty years against all the power of Spain at a time when Spain was the greatest power in the world. Intermix with them a strain of those inflexible French Huguenots who gave up home and fortune and left their country for ever at the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The product must obviously be one of the most rugged, virile, unconquerable races ever seen upon earth. Take this formidable people and train them for seven generations in constant warfare against savage men and ferocious beasts, in circumstances under which no weakling could survive, place them so that they acquire exceptional skill with weapons and in horsemanship, give them a country which is eminently suited to the tactics of the huntsman, the marksman, and the rider. Then, finally, put a finer temper upon their military qualities by a dour fatalistic Old Testament religion and an ardent and consuming patriotism. Combine all these qualities and all these impulses in one individual, and you have the modern Boer--the most formidable antagonist who ever crossed the path of Imperial Britain. Our military history has largely consisted in our conflicts with France, but Napoleon and all his veterans have never treated us so roughly as these hard-bitten farmers with their ancient theology and their inconveniently modern rifles.

Hermann, who gave me an autographed copy of his book is the "Extraordinary Professor of History at the Stellenbosch University". A shy man but an intellectual with a superb brain. I tooked to him immediately although I wasn't too pleased to be called a rooinek but I no longer have an Afrikaans accent and, since my marriage to an Engels girl am, indeed a rooinek :-)

Buy it, you won't regret it if you want to know about this fascinating race.
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on 1 April 2013
To Amazon

To Amazon
The letters in the book are the smallest, I ever saw. I can only read the text with big difficulty. The book, 716 pages, is worthless and useless for me.
If you sell a book with such small letters, you should very carefully explain in advance, that you are not using normal letters. Of course i would not order that copy.
I have earlier with pleausure ordered books from Amazon,and they are always printed in a normal way, that I can read.
I planned to use the book in my history class in the University of Aarhus, but now I have to find another book.
I think you should offer me another copy, with normal letters.

greeting from Denmark
Claus Rasmussen, lecturer
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on 28 May 2013
Helped me Understand the present day Rainbow Nation for informing me before a an extended tour around a very beautiful country. .Offered and supplied with the usual unsurpassed Amazon service and efficiency.
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on 29 December 2014
Great informative book and it was in great condition.
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on 21 February 2015
Great book. Pity no=one cares about the Afrikaaners today because they are being genocided.
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on 8 August 2014
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