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A veteran liberal South African editor and correspondent for the Washington Post, Sparks--acknowledging that he's here trying to do for South Africa what W.J. Cash's Mind of the South (1960) did for the South--has written a timely and important book. To understand just why South Africa developed the unique policies that have made it a pariah among nations, Sparks examines those events that he thinks were particularly responsible for shaping the minds of all South Africans: Afrikaaners, English, blacks, ""coloreds,"" and Indians alike, He begins with the 17th century, when the Dutch--at the peak of their power and Calvinist faith--established a settlement at the Cape to supply ships with food and water on their way to the Far East. Because the Dutch, unlike the Puritans in Massachusetts, never intended the Cape to be a colony, they did not establish any effective institutions; so once the land-hungry settlers moved into the interior, they soon lost all contact with the authorities. This move into the interior not only led to the conflict with black tribes, who needed land for their cattle, but for nearly two centuries also cut Afrikaaner farmers off from European thinking and development. The consequences of that isolation continue to be felt. Sparks discusses the British role, and the devastating impact on the Afrikaaners of the Anglo-Boer War, and assesses the contribution that English-speaking South Africans have made. His analysis of the roots of black resistance and the evolution of the various black political movements is equally thoughtful and thorough. Sparks is cautiously optimistic about the future, although he fears that the current divisions among blacks are more of a threat to multiracial democracy than those among whites. Although he has his biases, Sparks goes a long way to helping us understand just how the present has been shaped by the past.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1990
Publisher: Knopf