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However, a very different picture of South African history in the 1990s emerges in this volume of essays, selected from a workshop convened by Hans Erik Stolten at the University of Copenhagen under the auspices of the Nordic Africa Institute. Although some papers (particularly those of Burns and Baines) signal otherwise, the dominant assertion is that there has been a crisis in South African history since the 1990s; student enrollments in history have declined at both schools and universities, and despite dramatic political changes, few new historians have emerged and little fresh historical writing is apparent.
186 African Studies Review The efflorescence of scientific inquiry, which produced a number of impor- tant discoveries, thus unfolded alongside the creation of a particular colo- nial identity and the basic changes occurring at the time in the imperial relationship—especially the move toward representative rule. A good part of A Commonwealth of Knowledge rests on the idea of the rise of a colonial nationalism. Dubow argues, for example, that colonial nationalists in effect pried control from a conservative metropole. This may be slightly overstated. Given their experience in the American colonies, the British were already committed to devolving power, albeit within a broader imperial framework. The issue was never simply one of imperial subjugation or colonial nationalism; there was also the possibility of a broader imperial identity, a kind of imperial citizenship. What particularly complicated the matter during the first half of the nineteenth century was, of course, racial intolerance within the Cape and especially an expanding and very violent (not to mention costly) eastern Cape frontier. The remainder of A Commonwealth of Knowledge covers the period after 1870, a remarkably complex era. Here Dubow’s command of the material shines, particularly his understanding of the changes within South Africa’s rococo political landscape. Dubow works against the historiographical grain, which too often has seen the 1910 creation of a unitary state as some- thing of an inevitability. Instead, he holds the focus on the Cape a while longer and looks at the idea of South Africa and how various intellectuals came to define its problems both internally and within the wider British imperial framework. These chapters are particularly rich and defy easy sum- mary. What they do—and largely successfully—is to suggest the many pos- sible roads South Africans could have traveled in the closing years of the nineteenth century, and the ways political debates shaped emerging con- ceptions of a South African identity in the context of increasing racializa- tion. Here science and identity often moved dialogically, as researchers and institutions cast their attention to South Africa’s peculiar issues. But always there was a broader dimension, whether defined by the British Empire or later by an essentially Atlantic community. Dubow ends with the intellec- tual and institutional transfor
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