At the recent launch of the
updated edition of Tafelberg’s New History of South Africa, Professor Bernard
Mbenga, one of the volume’s editors, noted that ways of writing history change
over time, and our perceptions of what that history means also change. Hence
the need for a new and thoroughly revised New History of South Africa, which
was first published in 2007.
As the editors (Mbenga, Herman Giliomee and Bill Nasson) say in their preface, historians are themselves products of their history and time. Issues to do with race, the land, and power are viewed differently as time passes and new historians get to work on the record. The New History’s authors include "archaeologists, sociologists and political scientists" and aim to provide "a rich layer of perspectives" in a "readable, multi-authored general history of South Africa from its deep past in the mists of time right up to the present".
There will doubtless be continued argument about what our history is and what it means, however comprehensive the approach of such a volume: South Africa, say the editors, "is addicted to the notion of the present validating itself by calling up the past". History and history-writing are, inevitably, political.