Grappling with the Beast

Indigenous Southern African Responses to Colonialism, 1840-1930


This volume contributes rich, new material to provide insights into indigenous responses to the colonial empires of Great Britain (South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia)) and Germany (Namibia) and explore the complex intellectual, cultural, literary, and political borders and identities that emerged across these spaces. Contributors include distinguished global scholars in the field as well as exciting young scholars. The essays link global-national-local forces in history by analysing how indigenous elites not only interacted with colonial empires to absorb, adapt and re-cast new ideas, forms of discourse, and social formations, but also networked with “ordinary” people to forge new social, ethnic, and political identities and viable social forces. Translated and other primary texts in appendices add to the insights.
Restricted Access


EUR €141.00USD $188.00

Biographical Note

Peter Limb (Ph.D., W.Aust. 1997) is Associate Professor, History, Michigan State University. His books include Nelson Mandela (2008), Orb & Sceptre: Studies in British Imperialism and its Legacies (2008), The ANC’s Early Years and A. B. Xuma: Autobiography and Correspondence.

Norman Etherington, (Ph.D., Yale 1971) is Professor, History, University of Western Australia. Recent publications include Missions and Empire (Oxford History of British Empire Companion Series) (2005) and The Great Treks: The Transformation of Southern Africa, 1815–1854 (2001).

Peter Midgley (Ph.D., Alberta 2006) is Senior Editor, University of Alberta Press. Books include Sol Plaatje: An Introduction (1997) and a critical edition of The Diary of Iris Vaughan (2004), co-edited with Peter Alexander.      

Review Quotes

"In sum, all the contributions provide stimulating and impressive accounts of the variety and complexity of indigenous responses to colonial contact and subjugation. [...] The volume goes further in debunking the simplistic dichotomies that characterised earlier writing on African reaction to conquest (collaborator/resister, modernist/traditionalist, etc.) and rejects some of the fashionable assumptions of the so-called Africanist and revisionist schools of historiography. In all, Grappling with the Beast is both timely and will no doubt further stimulate the unexpected but growing tide of interest in colonial and imperial history." - Andrew Manson (North-West University, Mafikeng), South African Historical Journal, 2012, 64:4, pp. 882-883 DOI:10.1080/02582473.2012.708507

Table of contents

General Editor's Preface
List of contributors
List of maps

I: African Political, Social and Spatial Responses: Historical Perspectives
1. Indigenous Southern Africans and Colonialism: Introduction, Norman Etherington
2. Reactions to Colonialism in Southern Africa: Some Historiographical Reflections, Chris Saunders
3. Fenders of Space: Kgatla Territorial Expansion under Boer and British Rule, 1840–1920, Fred Morton
4. Intermediaries of Class, Nation, and Gender in the African Response to Colonialism in South Africa, 1890s–1920s, Peter Limb
Appendix: Labour and intermediaries in 1890s Cape Colony
5. Pastoral Modernity, Territoriality and Colonial Transformations in Central Namibia, 1860s to 1904, Dag Henrichsen
6. Social and Political Responses to Colonialism on the Margins: Community, Chieftaincy and Ethnicity in Bulilima-Mangwe, Zimbabwe, 1890–1930, Enocent Msindo
7. Conflict and Negotiation along the Lower Vaal River: Correspondence from the Tswana-Language Newspaper Mokaeri oa Becuana, Stephen C. Volz and Part T. Mgadla

II: African Literary, Cultural, Intellectual and Religious Responses
8. Renaissance Men: Ntsikana, A. C. Jordan, S. E. K. Mqhayi and South Africa’s Cultural Awakening, Peter Midgley
9. African Intellectual & Literary Responses to Colonial Modernity in South Africa, Ntongela Masilela
10. ‘Then Came the Whiteman’: An African Poet and Polemicist on the Fateful Encounter, Grant Christison
11. World Visions: ‘Native Missionaries,’ Mission networks and Critiques of Colonialism in Nineteenth-Century South Africa and Canada, Tolly Bradford
Appendix: A Letter by Tiyo Soga, 1871



All interested in the history of colonialism (especially British and German), South and Southern African history, literary, mission and intellectual studies, and studies of colonial identities, modernity, ethnicity, and nationalism.

Index Card

Collection Information