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7 July 1983
Studies in the Social and Economic History of the Witwatersrand 1886-1914. Vol. I: New Babylon, Vol. II:New Nineveh 
by Charles van Onselen.
Longman, 213 pp., £4.95, December 1982, 9780582643833
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... CharlesvanOnselen is a South African historian teaching at the University of Witwatersrand who, from his earliest years, has been immersed in the realities of South Africa’s past and its present-day social and ...
12 December 1996
The Seed Is Mine: The Life of Kas Maine, a South African Sharecropper, 1849-1985 
by Charles van Onselen.
James Currey, 668 pp., £14.95, February 1996, 9780852557402
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... the stubbled fields to Nieman’s house to enact his part in one of the seigneurial rituals of the Western Transvaal. Sixty years later, among the thousands of hours he spent recalling his life for CharlesvanOnselen – Kas was blessed with a memory from which nothing faded – he described how the ritual went: When a child was born you went to the landlord and said: ‘We have a baby boy’. The ...

Who was he?

Charles​ Nicholl: Joe the Ripper

7 February 2008
The Fox and the Flies: The World of Joseph Silver, Racketeer and Psychopath 
by Charles van Onselen.
Cape, 672 pp., £20, April 2007, 978 0 224 07929 7
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... windowpane; no mention of the blood, which must have been everywhere; no description of the smell in the room. The bare facts are enough to convey the shock of being there, of having this glimpse, as CharlesvanOnselen puts it, into ‘the Angel of Death’s laboratory’. VanOnselen’s long, disturbing and magnificently dogged book, The Fox and the Flies, takes us through a grim terrain spread across ...

A Childhood on the Edge of History

Charles van Onselen: J.M. Coetzee’s boyhood

5 February 1998
Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Secker, 171 pp., £12.99, September 1997, 0 436 20448 7
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... There was a moment – probably in the Thirties, as Smuts and Hertzog were embarking on political exercises aimed at ‘nation-building’ – when the term ‘English-speaking’ might have meant something in white South African society. In contemporary South Africa, however, ‘African’ and ‘Afrikaner’ dominate the debate. Both suggest a primordial attachment to the continent, fan rival nationalisms ...

Dead but Not Quite Buried

Charles van Onselen: The desecration industry in South Africa

29 October 1998
... In the winter of 1913, South Africa’s most famous black journalist, Solomon T. Plaatje, travelled through the southwestern Transvaal to observe and report on the plight of black families who had been thrown off white farms. These evictions were prompted by the passage of the notorious Natives’ Land Act, the legislation which, like the Enclosure Acts, formed the bedrock on which the economic edifice ...

At the Pompidou

Jeremy Harding: David Goldblatt

25 April 2018
... The​ South African labour market,’ CharlesvanOnselen writes in New Nineveh, ‘has always been dominated by … mining, agriculture and domestic service.’ VanOnselen’s two-volume history of ‘everyday life in the Witwatersrand’, a long ridge on the Highveld, explores the period from the mid-1880s when the discovery of gold propelled South Africa through a ...

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