Jan-Bart Gewald selected as fellow at Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study

Jan-Bart Gewald, Professor of African History at Leiden University, has been selected as a fellow at Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) for the second semester of 2022. He will be working on the research project The 'Big Hole', Kimberley South Africa, 1870-1920

The chance find of a diamond on a small hillock in South Africa one hundred and fifty years ago initiated an industrial mining revolution, the effects of which continue to reverberate far into the future. With time the hillock was picked and shovelled away to become the biggest hole dug by human hand and the richest diamond mine of the world, the 'Big Hole' in Kimberley. Jan-Bart Gewald will draft a five chapter book manuscript that focusses on the history of the 'Big Hole' in relation to the world around it. To be sure, the mining revolution brought untold financial wealth to southern Africa, but at the expense of shattered ecosystems and societies. In the present, in which the world as a whole is being effected by the climate crisis, it is important to understand and realise the interconnected nature of the past. Gewald will thus draft a history of the 'Big Hole' which consciously seeks to decentre the human, and focus instead on the inter-connected nature of the past in which geology and geography, flora and fauna, water and air all play a role in the history of the exploitation of the earth.