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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Tydskr. geesteswet. vol.48 n.3 Pretoria  2008


F.A. van Jaarsveld se Die ontwakingvan die Afrikaanse nasionale bewussyn na vyftig jaar


F.A. van Jaarsveld's The awakening of Afrikaner nationalism after fifty years



Pieter de Klerk

Vakgroep Geskiedenis, Noordwes-Universiteit (Vaaldriehoekkampus).




F.A. van Jaarsveld word as een van Suid-Afrika se vernaamste twintigste-eeuse historici beskou en sy studie van 1957, Die ontwaking van die Afrikaanse nasionale bewussyn, 1868-1881, as een van sy belangrikste werke. Hierdie boek, wat ook in Engels vertaal is, is lank in Suid-Afrika en in die buiteland aanvaar as die belangrikste studie oor die oorsprong van Afrikanernasionalisme. Sedertdien het daar 'n aantal wetenskaplike werke verskyn waarin beskouinge gehuldig word wat in verskeie opsigte van dié van Van Jaarsveld verskil. Hierdie werke word kortliks bespreek en daar word aangedui dat hul interpretasies in baie gevalle beïnvloed is deur algemene teorieë oor die aard van nasionalisme. Daar word in die artikel tot die slotsom gekom dat Van Jaarsveld se werk nie as verouderd afgemaak kan word nie. Inteendeel, dit bly een van enkele goed nagevorste studies oor vroeë Afrikanernasionalisme en is steeds van groot waarde, ook binne die konteks van huidige invloedryke teorieë oor nasionalisme.

Trefwoorde: Afrikanernasionalisme, Afrikaners, nasionalisme, nasionale bewussyn, teorieë oor nasionalisme, ideologieë, etnisiteit, imperialisme, historiografie, F.A. van Jaarsveld, H. Giliomee


F.A. van Jaarsveld is usually regarded as one of the most prominent South African historians of the twentieth century. In 1957 he published a monograph entitled Die ontwaking van die Afrikaanse nasionale bewussyn, 1868-1881 of which an English translation, The awakening of Afrikaner nationalism, appeared in 1961. For many years this book has been regarded by scholars of South African history as the major study on the origin of Afrikaner nationalism.Van Jaarsveld's contribution to historical writing has been discussed and evaluated by several scholars, but, although some of these academics refer to The awakening of Afrikaner nationalism as his most important contribution none of them provide an extensive discussion of this monograph. Since 1957 a number of scholars have been researching the topic of Afrikaner nationalism. This has led to new interpretations on its origin and early phase. The purpose of this article is to ascertain to what extent changing views of nationalism, and particularly of Afrikaner nationalism, have influenced the value of van Jaarsveld's book and whether it can still be regarded as the major study on this topic.
Van Jaarsveld's use of the expression "awakening of nationalism" indicates that he was influenced by the views of nineteenth century German philosophers on the character of nations, but it is also apparent from his book that he was familiar with the studies of early twentieth century theorists of nationalism, such as Hans Kohn. Although elements of an Afrikaner nationalist interpretation of history appear in some of van Jaarsveld's writings, in The awakening of Afrikaner nationalism he describes and discusses nationalism, and also Afrikaner nationalism, from a critical perspective. He views nationalism as mainly a political phenomenon and argues that Afrikaner nationalism originated during the period 1868-1881 as a reaction to British imperialism in South Africa. However, Afrikaans historians such as J.J. Oberholzer and M.C.E. van Schoor maintain that the origin of Afrikaner nationalism dates back to the early nineteenth century. There are strong indications that their interpretations are influenced by an Afrikaner nationalist view of history. On the other hand there are a number of academics, inter alia Isabel Hofmeyr and Dan O'Meara, who argue that Afrikaner nationalism did not exist before the beginning of the twentieth century. Hermann Giliomee is of the opinion that the whole period 1870-1915 should be seen as the period of the origin and early development of Afrikaner nationalism, but that the years after 1900 were the crucial years in the formation of Afrikaner nationalism.
It would appear that the scholars who regard the first decades of the twentieth century as the period when Afrikaner nationalism was formed are mainly influenced by theories that explain nationalism in the light of economic factors and the development of capitalism. Among these writers it is only Giliomee who has extensively studied the problem of the origin of Afrikaner nationalism. Although the theories of nationalism on which his study is based, especially the theories of Ernest Gellner and Tom Nairn, are still influential, they are not generally accepted. There is no consensus among theorists whether nationalism should be primarily regarded as an ideology, an idea or a political movement. Some of them emphasize the role of cultural and intellectual factors while others highlight the importance of political aspects. The work of John Breuilly, for instance, is regarded by recent writers on nationalism as an important contribution to the debate on the origin and nature of nationalism. Similar to van Jaarsveld Breuilly sees nationalism as a political phenomenon and emphasizes the role of political factors in the origin and development of nationalism. I would argue, therefore, that van Jaarsveld's book can not simply be dismissed as being outdated. On the contrary, it is one of but a few well researched studies on early Afrikaner nationalism and, regarded within the context of current scientific views of nationalism, it remains a valuable contribution to South African historical writing.

Key concepts: Afrikaner nationalism, Afrikaners, nationalism, national consciousness, theories of nationalism, ideologies, ethnicity, imperialism, historiography, F.A. van Jaarsveld, H. Giliomee


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1 Van Jaarsveld maak 'n onderskeid tussen die begrippe nasionale bewusyn en nasionalisme, soos later verder verduidelik word. Die laaste afdeling van die boek (Van Jaarsveld, 1957:115-176) dra die titel Geestelike eenwording: die ontstaan van Afrikaanse nasionalisme (1877-1881) en die Engelse vertaling van die hele boek (Van Jaarsveld, 1961) is getiteld The awakening of Afrikaner nationalism, 1868-1881. Die werk handel dus ten minste gedeeltelik oor die ontstaan van Afrikanernasionalisme.
2 Sover moontlik word in die artikel die term volk vir die Duitse woord Volk en die Engelse woorde people en folk gebruik, terwyl die Engelse en Franse term nation vertaal word met die woord nasie.



Pieter de Klerk is professor in Geskiedenis aan die Vaaldriehoekkampus van die Noordwes-Universiteit. Hy het aan die Potchefstroomse Universiteit vir CHO (tans bekend as die Noordwes-Universiteit) en aan die Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam gestudeer, voordat hy in 1971 die graad D.Litt. in Geskiedenis aan eersgenoemde inrigting verwerf het. Hy is in 1968 as junior lektor in Geskiedenis op die Potchefstroomkampus van die PU vir CHO aangestel en is sedert 1983 aan die Vaaldriehoekkampus verbonde. Hy is die outeur van 'n aantal boeke en artikels op, hoofsaaklik, die volgende terreine: die teorie en filosofie van geskiedenis, historiografie en vergelykende geskiedenis. Hy het verskeie voordragte op internasionale en binnelandse vakkonferensies gelewer en was redaksielid van enkele akademiese tydskrifte.

Pieter de Klerk is professor of History at the Vaal Triangle Campus of North-West University. He studied at the Potchefstroom University for CHE (presently called Northwest-University) and at the Free University of Amsterdam, before he obtained the degree D.Litt. in History in 1971 at Potchefstroom University. In 1968 he was appointed as junior lecturer in History at the Potchefstroom Campus of the PU for CHE, and since 1983 he has been a staff-member at the Vaal Triangle Campus. He is the author of a number of books and articles focusing largely on the following fields of expertise: the theory and philosophy of history, historiography and comparative history. He has presented several papers at international and national academic conferences and has served on the editorial boards of a number of scholarly journals.

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