Christianity, the faith of almost three-quarters of the diverse South African population, has long been pushed to the margins of historical writing on South Africa, yet for more than two centuries it has shaped South African society and its diverse subcultures. This tightly constructed and vigorously written book—a collaboration of thirty specialists working in seven countries—situates Christianity for the first time in the broad political, social, and economic context of South African history; it also traces a variety of religious movements and their histories both before and during apartheid.
Perhaps nowhere in the African continent is the study of Christianity as fascinating, complex, or contentious as in South Africa. In the twentieth century South Africans have used Christian doctrine both to justify and to oppose doctrines of racial segregation, and Christian leadership provided much of the impetus for the founding of the African National Congress in 1912. But the history of South African Christianity is found for the most part in local, or "micro" narratives, while the highly elaborated "macro" narratives of colonialism, capitalism, and liberation—the backbone of the conventional histories of South Africa—assign Christianity a marginal role, or no role at all. This volume seeks to insert the Christian micro-narratives into the macro-narratives of South African history, providing for the first time an in-depth, cohesive look at Christianity in South Africa.
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"At a strategic time in South Africa's history, the Christian history which is absolutely basic to all developments, is presented in a comprehensive and objective way. Too little attention is given to the influence of religion in socio-political accounts. This is a creative and much-needed contribution to scholarship and general knowledge. . . . An outstanding work."-Dean S. Gilliland, Fuller Theological SeminaryAbout the Author:
Richard Elphick is Professor of History at Wesleyan University. Rodney Davenport is Professor Emeritus at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa.
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