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Hermann Giliomee Explores the History and Politics of The Last Afrikaner Leaders

The Last Afrikaner LeadersDie laaste AfrikanerleiersNew from Tafelberg, The Last Afrikaner Leaders: A Supreme Test of Power by Hermann Giliomee:

Renowned historian Hermann Giliomee challenges the conventional wisdom on the downfall of white rule: Instead of impersonal forces, or the resourcefulness of an indomitable resistance movement, he emphasises the role of Nationalist leaders and of their outspoken critic, Van Zyl Slabbert. What motivated each of the last Afrikaner leaders, from Verwoerd to De Klerk? How did each try to reconcile economic growth, white privilege and security with the demands of an increasingly assertive black leadership and unexpected population figures?

In exploring each leader’s background, reasoning and personal foibles, Giliomee takes issue with the assumption that South Africa was inexorably heading for an ANC victory in 1994. He argues that historical accidents radically affected the course of politics.

Drawing on primary sources and personal interviews, this book sheds dramatic new light on many key moments: Verwoerd’s offer to the urban black leadership in 1950, the incursion into Angola in 1975, the unexpected breakthrough that made possible the labour reforms, Botha’s secret attempt in 1984 to forge a pact with the Soviet Union, the background to the disastrous Rubicon speech and the National Party backtracking in the negotiations.

Giliomee offers a fresh and stimulating political history which attempts not to condemn, but to understand why the last Afrikaner leaders did what they did, and why their own policies ultimately failed them.

‘Intimately informed … invaluable’ – RW Johnson

‘Breaks new ground … illuminating and judicious’ – David Welsh

The book is also available in Afrikaans as Die laaste Afrikanerleiers.

About the author

Hermann Buhr Giliomee was born in Sterkstroom in the Eastern Cape on April 4, 1938. He went to school in Porterville and studied history at the University of Stellenbosch.

He subsequently worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs and lectured at the University of Stellenbosch. From 1983 to 1998 he was Professor in Political Studies at the University of Cape Town. From 1995 to 1997 he was president of the South African Institute of Race Relations. He is currently an extraordinary professor and research associate of the Department of History at the University of Stellenbosch.

Hermann Giliomee is the writer of various historical and political publications. In 2003 The Afrikaners – Biography of a People was published. It was also published in America and England. A year later Die Afrikaners: ’n Biografie was published. In 2008 he received the Helgaard Steyn Prize for Literature for Die Afrikaners. Nuwe geskiedenis van Suid-Afrika and New History of South Africa were published in 2007. It was co-written with the historian Bernard Mbenga.

Book details


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