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History of South Afric...
Leonard Thompson
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History of South Africa: Third Edition

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  406 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
A leading scholar of South Africa provides a fresh and penetrating exploration of that country's history, from the earliest known human inhabitation of the region to the present, focusing primarily on the experiences of its black inhabitants. For this third edition, Leonard Thompson adds two new chapters that describe the transfer of power and the new South Africa under th ...more
ebook, 418 pages
Published February 1st 2001 by Yale University Press (first published 1990)
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Leslie Street
Jun 28, 2011 Leslie Street rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when I traveled to South Africa, and it was excellent. It gave me so much information, that everything about my visit was enhanced. I highly recommend it, in spite of what some people might consider a textbook-like flow.
Eric Bridges
May 21, 2008 Eric Bridges rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 1/2 stars. The book was overflowing with facts and all the key events that lead up to South Africa as it is today: spanning from the earliest inhabitants to the presidential term of Thabo Mbeki. The reason I didn't give this book four stars is not the information per se, but more so the way the information was presented. In short, good content, poor execution. Although the book is set up in a generally chronological order, the author constantly jumps around when discussing specific dates. The ...more
Otto Silver
Jul 26, 2012 Otto Silver rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Finishing school before the first all inclusive election means i was mostly taught the propaganda Afrikaner history. I knew nothing of how non-white peoples were treated by mu forefathers. I never even realised i attended school while the country around me was on the brink of civil war.

Im sure the book could have been improved, and the conclusion/ ending was very abrupt, but I still learned more about my country and where the sometimes apparent hatred foe my skin colour and language comes from i
Very helpful overview of South Africa's history
Jacob Lines
Dec 22, 2014 Jacob Lines rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I must confess - I only read half of the book. I started in the middle because I wanted to learn about how apartheid came about and how it ended. The second half of this book was very good. It is concise, even compressed. The book aims to tell the story of South Africa in one volume, so it has to be. I had just read a couple of really great books by Albie Sachs, so I wanted to learn the bigger picture. This book does a good job of showing the big picture. Perfect for the beginner to South Africa ...more
Feb 10, 2016 Audrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book while I was traveling through South Africa, and it definitely added a lot of depth to my understanding of the country as I visited it.

As should be expected given the vast expanse of information this book tries to cover, Thompson’s writing is very dense and information-packed. As he notes on his first page, Thompson tries to portray the country’s full history, from a description of the lifestyles and cultures of the country’s pre-colonial inhabitants, to its multicultural mo
This is the history of South Africa, from the late 1500s until about 2000, and the bulk of the book is the 20th century. It describes a little about the native South Africans before settlers arrived, then goes through the story of the Dutch taking over, then the British, how apartheid began, what it meant for the various ethnic groups, and ultimately how apartheid ended. Nelson Mandela has a prominent place throughout most of the last 1/4 of the book.

I am a very infrequent reader of straight-up
Sep 11, 2014 LDB rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for a trip to South Africa I took for a consulting assignment. This book covers South African history from the time of the hunters/gatherers that existed before any outside influences through to post-apartheid. It was well written and enjoyable to read while at the same time highly informative. It really helped me gain a much better understanding of South Africa's history and why things are the way they are today. While much of South Africa feels like a European country with a t ...more
Thomas Hm
Really interesting book to read for anyone planning to go on a trip to South Africa. I bought it over there and could not get my hands off it during my stay there. Very insightful and helpful to understand the roots of SA's modern-day issues!
Holly Tarver
Feb 09, 2016 Holly Tarver rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very deatailed and helpful for if you are researching the topic. Also, I found it organized in a way that such large amounts of information can be easily understood in a logical way.
Jul 23, 2011 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful and succinct history of South Africa, especially for those not from the country who want to learn more about the fascinating history of the area. The book covers everything from the time of the native African tribes who called the land home first to the colonization by the Dutch and British to the modern post-apartheid era (up to the year 2000). The one area that I had trouble following was the beginning with all the various African tribes, which I knew nothing about before. The book ...more
N.W. Martin
Focuses heavily on political issue and doesn't examine the cultural aspects of social change, but, overall, this is a well-balanced book. Though, he does romanticize Mandela a bit.
Mar 15, 2014 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
About as definitive a national history as exists. Anyone remotely interested in South Africa should have read this and Mandela's "Long Walk to Freedom."
There was a thing in the paper about Breaker Morant, which got me reading about the Boer War/South African War (I'm sorry, I've grown up with it being the "Boer War". I'm a girl guide. I suspect it will always be the Boer War to me.) Which reminded me that I had this book on my shelves.

In the last two days I've read from the South African War to where the book ends in 1995. I certainly plan to go back and read from the beginning through to 1900 sooner rather than later.

I'm more keen now than ev
Mar 09, 2014 Anthony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed it - very informative and doesn't overload the reader. Felt like a nimble read.
Donna Davis
Complex and scholarly, this volume fills a need that was left empty far too long. I found it well documented and interesting, but it is not written as a narrative and requires some effort to plow through. Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom is an alternative or additional source of information the reader may consider. For the serious student of South Africa, I recommend both.
Aug 18, 2015 Conor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent overview of the history that has shaped this complex nation. Any of the chapters, and even the subsections, deserve their own book. Nevertheless I now have a good general understanding of the country.

As an afterthought: The final chapter added for the fourth edition and written by Lynn Berat had a much more negative tone than the rest of the book. Though there is much to criticize about the current Zuma administration, Berat seemed to use this as a platform to espouse her political
Chris Dudding
Feb 22, 2014 Chris Dudding rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Strong, comprehensive overview of the complex threads that, from prehistory through western conquest and apartheid, have given rise to the modern nation of South Africa.
Fatima Beg
Nov 02, 2007 Fatima Beg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who needs a short, readable and thorough introduction to South African history
This book gives a great overview: from the Khoi and the San, the first peoples living in South Africa thousands of years ago, to Thabo Mbeki's governement. It gives a fair account - as far as I can judge without having been to South Africa - of White and Black fears, expectations and internal dynamics.

It is as detailed as a any book on the complete history of a country can be on such few pages and it doesn't expect the reader to have any knowledge of South Africa beforehand.

A very good introduct
Mar 09, 2014 Stephen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
The book A History Of South Africa by Leonard Thompson is a very good and fascinating book, it explains in vivid detail the whole entire history of South Africa whether it is the Neolithic period or the Present daytime. I can say that I learned a lot from this book like that Nazi Germany occupied South Africa during WW2 and a little bit afterwards, I believe that this book should be read by any history lover and any one who is trying to obtain knowledge about South Africa should read this book.
Oct 04, 2008 joshua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this was a great book in that it was not a history written from an imperialist perspective. it begins with pre-colonial times and the major people groups living in the region and how they lived. it takes the major events, climates, and changes through apartheid and into the beginning of the 21st century.

there is so much jacked up stuff in this book, if you read it and don't get pissed off or at least feel the pain than somebody should check your pulse.
Tal Honor
Apr 10, 2014 Tal Honor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Endorsed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu....and me :D
Aug 06, 2007 Nadine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who are really interested in South Africa
I learned quite a lot about South Africa from this book, from ancient to modern history. I will admit that it could not have kept my attention if I hadn't been planning to live in the country for several months. But it did help to explain the different ethnic groups within the country, which made a huge difference in my reaction to the country.
Jul 25, 2008 Catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A concise yet thorough look at the history of South Africa. While it definitely reads like a history textbook, Thompson makes a concerted effort to present all sides of many tense and violent issues with sensitivity. A great foundation in historical context for more specified research.
A most enjoyable read,
Jun 16, 2008 Katrina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
everything you need to know about South Africa. here you go. It reads kind of history-bookish, hence the title, lol. But it's a great country with a rich history definitely worth learning about. I was assigned the book before visiting the country for 3 weeks.
Jan 12, 2008 Samantha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had to read this for class, but would recommend it for anyone going to South Africa. The first half is confusing but I really enjoyed the second half. It was definitely a more fair representation of the history than most history books.
Jun 28, 2013 Elissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of this fascinating country. I am preparing to travel there and after reading this, I feel ready to appreciate and experience the country.
John Rivera
Jul 07, 2008 John Rivera rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Quite frankly this is one of the best, most comprehensive, and concise histories of South Africa that I have read thus far. Very much a "must read" for students of South African history.
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