Race and class in the South African countryside: Cultural osmosis and social relations in the sharecropping economy of the south-western Transvaal, 1900-1950

Van Onselen, Charles
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'Race relations' in the South African countryside have never made for a particularly pretty picture. Several recent studies, including, for example, a finely etched portrait of the notorious Abel Erasmus have served to remind us that the birth pangs of commercial agriculture in the Transvaal during the late 19th century were characterised by considerable violence between white landowners and black tenants (1). Nor did matters improve significantly over the half century that followed. In the course of an exceptionally sensitive study of black protest on the land during the late twenties it is suggested that: ' . . .fists, whips and guns were central in maintaining master-servant relationships on farms' (2). And, while writing what was the classic work of its genre in the mid-thirties, I.D. MacCrone was moved to comment on 'cases of violent physical treatment which are such a feature of the relations between white and black in country districts' (3).
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented August 1988
Social classes. South Africa. History , South Africa. Race relations. History , South Africa. Rural conditions. History , South Africa. Social conditions. History