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The Economist's Diana Geddes on the Top Reads on South Africa

Alert! The Economist‘s Southern Africa correspondent, Diana Geddes, who has been based in Johannesburg since January last year, has given a run-down of the books on SA politics and history that she has found most useful as navigation aids, as she get to grips with the country’s multifarous pasts and presents.

Although she laments, somewhat bizarrely, that “I have found no general history written from a black or coloured (mixed race) perspective” – how about the New History of South Africa by Bernard Mbenga and Hermann Giliomee, or The War for South Africa by Bill Nasson, to start? – Geddes certainly covers much ground in her recommendations for the texts of her putative primer course on SA:

The AfrikanersA History of South AfricaThe Rise and Fall of ApartheidSouth Africa's Brave New WorldLong Walk to FreedomWhite SupremacyMandelaThabo Mbeki

South Africa remains obsessed by race (hardly surprising, as you note, after 350 years of racial polarisation, including nearly half a century of apartheid). Can you suggest any books that deal directly with the country’s complicated racial dynamic?

Virtually any book written about South Africa, including all of the above, touches on the country’s racial complexities. But I know of only one that takes race as its central theme: “White Supremacy: A comparative study in American and South African history” (Oxford University Press, 1981), written by George M Fredrickson, a late professor of American history at Stanford University. Though published before the end of apartheid, it draws many intriguing parallels between attitudes to race in both America and South Africa.

Any books, dear readers, that you’d care to add to her list?

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