In contrast to the situation in Commonwealth countries such as Canada and Australia, South Africa's participation in the Second World War has not been accorded a particularly significant place in the country's historiography. In part at least, this is the result of historiographical traditions which, although divergent in many ways, have a common denominator in that their various compelling imperatives have despatched the Second World War to the periphery of their respective scholarly discourses.
Afrikaner historians have concentrated on wars on their ‘own’ soil – the South African War of 1899–1902 in particular – and beyond that through detailed analyses of white politics have been at pains to demonstrate the inexorable march of Afrikanerdom to power. The Second World War only featured insofar as it related to internal Afrikaner political developments. Neither was the war per se of much concern to English-speaking academic historians, either of the so-called liberal or radical persuasion. For more than two decades, the interests of English-speaking professional historians have been dominated by issues of race and class, social structure, consciousness and the social effects of capitalism. While the South African War did receive some attention in terms of capitalist imperialist expansion, the Second World War was left mostly to historians of the ‘drum-and-trumpet’ variety. In general, the First and Second World Wars did not appear a likely context in which to investigate wider societal issues in South Africa.
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