South African lecture tour Jan-Bart Gewald: 'From the ashes reborn: Reconsidering the "Time of Troubles" in Southern Africa 1780-1840'

Jan-Bart Gewald among the remnants of the city of Kweneng, destroyed circa 1820.

Between 15 and 24 October Jan-Bart Gewald, Professor of African History at Leiden University, will be lecturing at seven universities in South Africa on new perspectives with regard to the period 1780-1840 in South Africa, which can be seen as one of the most fundamental periods of the country’s history.

In Southern African history the period described as the Mfecane ‘Time of Troubles’ is seen as determining much of contemporary ethnic identity and land distribution in the sub-continent. However, recent work on societal collapse indicates that societies do not collapse due to single causes, history is far more complex and messy. Instead, Prof. Gewald asserts that the ‘Time of Troubles’ is more complex in origin and consequences than the activities of a single man, Shaka Zulu, or a single ethnicity, and can be better understood in the context of global interactions. This insight, coupled with a greater appreciation for global interactions, allows us to reconsider the ‘Time of Troubles’ in the context of:

a.) Population growth brought about by the introduction of New World Crops

b.) Climate change and resulting crop failures brought about by the volcanoes Laki in Iceland (1784) and Tambora in Indonesia (1815)

c.) Mass-migration brought about by famine

d.) The transition of the Cape in the context of the Global Napoleonic wars

e.) Rapidly industrializing Great Britain, in which massive population growth, mass-migration and professional standing armies were the norm

f.) Mass-migration of Boer settlers from the Cape in the Groot Trek of 1836

The paper, drawing on the disciplines of history, archaeology and anthropology, seeks to place this period of Southern African history in a broader global context.

Jan-Bart will be lecturing at the following universities:

  • 15 October: University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch
  • 16 October: University of Cape Town, Cape Town
  • 17 October: University of the Free State, Bloemfontein
  • 18 October: Sol Plaatje University, Kimberley
  • 21 October: North-West University, Mafikeng Campus 
  • 23 October: University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
  • 24 October: University of South Africa, Pretoria

Date, time and location

15 October 2019 to 24 October 2019