A Commonwealth of Knowledge: Science, Sensibility, and White by Saul Dubow

By Saul Dubow

A Commonwealth of information addresses the connection among social and clinical notion, colonial id, and political energy in 19th- and twentieth-century South Africa. It hinges at the pressure among colonial wisdom, conceived of as a common, modernizing strength, and its awareness within the context of a society divided alongside advanced ethnic and racial fault-lines. via unique research of colonial cultures, literary and medical associations, and professional old considering South Africa and its peoples, it demonstrates the ways that the cultivation of data has served to aid white political ascendancy and claims to nationhood. In a sustained remark on sleek South African historiography, the importance of 'broad' South Africanism - a political culture designed to go beyond adjustments among white English- and Afrikaans-speakers - is emphasised. A Commonwealth of data additionally engages with wider comparative debates.These contain the character of imperial and colonial wisdom platforms; the position of highbrow rules and ideas in constituting ethnic, racial, and local identities; the dissemination of principles among imperial metropole and colonial outer edge; the emergence of beginner highbrow groups; and the come across among imperial and indigenous or neighborhood wisdom structures. The publication has huge scope. It opens with a dialogue of civic associations (eg. museums, libraries, botanical gardens and medical societies), and assesses their position in making a precise feel of Cape colonial id; the booklet is going directly to speak about the ways that clinical and different kinds of data contributed to the advance of a capacious South Africanist patriotism appropriate with persisted club of the British Commonwealth; it concludes with reflections at the techno-nationalism of the apartheid nation and situates modern matters just like the 'African Renaissance', and responses to HIV/AIDS, in large old context.

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It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the attempt to create a South African Literary Society was suppressed soon after eleven men attended its first meeting in 1824. Here, Fairbairn spoke in barely coded terms about how such societies could help to advance scientific enquiry and encourage ⁵⁸ B. Anderson, Imagined Communities (London, 1983), 62. ⁵⁹ A. M. D thesis, University of Cape Town (1961), 56, 57–8, 75. See also Meiring, Thomas Pringle, 62: His poems ‘indicate how deeply he absorbed the atmosphere of South Africa with all its colourful and expressive Dutch, Hottentot and Kaffir associations, and, by introducing them into his writing, he became the first colonial writer to make use of indigenous words for effect’.

Stimulated in part by the introduction of preferential rates on ²² Keegan, Colonial South Africa, 100–1. ²³ Robinson and Gallagher, Africa and the Victorians, 2. ²⁴ J. H. Elliot and Jack P. Greene, in N. Canny and A. Pagden (eds), Colonial Identity in the Atlantic World, 1500–1800 (Princeton, 1987), 9–11, 228–9. ²⁵ D. Hobart Houghton, The South African Economy, 4th edn. (Cape Town, 1976), 5; R. Elphick and H. ), The Shaping of South African Society, 524; R. Ross, Beyond the Pale: Essays on the History of Colonial South Africa (Johannesburg, 1993), part 1.

The persistence of prominent family names is as good an indication as any of the way in which networks of colonial society were sustained and reproduced. The tenure of Lord Charles Somerset, who governed the Cape from 1814 to 1826, marks an important moment in the Cape’s transition from a small trading outpost, ruled by a coterie of military and administrative officials, to an expanding British colony with an increasingly vocal settler population. This outcome was not necessarily his intention, for Somerset’s instincts were those of an arch-Tory and a reactionary.

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