mirage

Contree: 1990 No 27

Boloka/Manakin Repository

Contree: 1990 No 27

 

Contents

No. 27, April 1990

Articles


Book reviews

Editorial

'Total history' – the material base as a binding factor

The importance of presenting an integrated view of the past instead of a limited view of historical events in the practice of local and regional history, is widely recognized. Although traditional South African historical works often cover all aspects of community life, a comprehensive view of the town or region concerned is often lacking. A reason for this is that the themes themselves become small fragmented histories which do not link up logically or complement one another.

The ideal should rather be to create a broader overview in which the various aspects are interwoven chronologically around a central theme embodying the course of development of a town or region. Although it is not easy or always possible to identify a theme of this kind, a possible point of departure might be to depict a development history of a town or region -and not only aspects of it. The central question here might be what were the origins of the town or region as an established community space, what maintains it, causes it to develop, to degenerate or decay.

Apart from the interaction between man and nature as a central theme in the founding of communities (in the long term probably the most important influence on human activity), it would seem as if short-term events have the most far-reaching effect on the history of the development of towns and regions. On closer analysis, cycles of growth and decay appear to be linked to a region's economic assets, whether-these are its agricultural potential, raw materials, or its location near trade routes. In reality all activity and change in a town or region are related to the material base.

Material considerations should therefore be regarded as the main driving force for change and development. Whenever the existing economic structure is modified or extended, changes inevitably also take place in other areas such as the social, political and cultural levels. Examples of this are the extensive changes which came about in population composition and distribution, in community facilities and infrastructure, production and social relations, after the discovery of minerals in South Africa. In this issue of Contree some of the articles do in fact portray the influence of economic change and development on communities.

Without absolutizing economic history - it can never be divorced from its social context - or slavishly following the example of classic historical materialism, a study can be made of the material base of societies and the forces at work which can make a definite contribution as the 'prime mover of society' to realize the ideal of a more integrated approach to local and regional history.

P.H.R. Snyman

Redaksioneel

'Totale geskiedenis' - die materiële basis as samebindingsfaktor

Dit is belangrik dat in 'n plaaslike en streekgeskiedenis 'n geïntegreerde verledebeeld in plaas van 'n beperkte gebeurtenisgeskiedenis geskep word. Ofskoon werke in die tradisionele Suid-Afrikaanse geskiedskrywing dikwels wel alle aspekte van die gemeenskapslewe dek, ontbreek 'n geheelbeeld van die bepaalde dorp of streek wat ondersoek word gewoonlik. 'n Rede daarvoor is dat die temas as 't ware op sigself klein, gefragmenteerde geskiedenisse binne die groter geheel bly en Die altyd logies bymekaar aansluit of mekaar aanvul nie.

Dit behoort eerder die ideaal te wees om 'n omvattende geheelbeeld te skep waarin die verskillende aspekte chronologies rondom 'n sentrale tema in die ontwikkelingsgang van 'n dorp of streek geweef word. Al is dit nie maklik of altyd moontlik om so 'n tema te identifiseer nie, sou 'n moontlike uitgangspunt wees om 'n ontwikkelingsgeskiedenis van 'n dorp of streek - en nie net aspekte daarvan nie - uit te beeld. Die kernvraag hier sou kon wees wat die oorsprong van 'n dorp of streek as geordende samelewingsruimte was, wat dit in stand hou, verder laat ontwikkel, laat kwyn of verval.

Afgesien van die wisselwerking tussen mens en natuur as sentrale tema in die ontstaan van gemeenskappe (op die langtermyn stellig die verreikendste invloed op menslike aktiwiteite), wil dit voorkom of gebeure op 'n korter termyn die ontwikkelingsgeskiedenis van dorpe en streke die ingrypendste beïnvloed. By 'n ontleding sal dit meestal blyk dat siklusse van groei en verval verband hou met die gebied se ekonomiese bates, hetsy landboupotensiaal, grondstowwe of ligging langs handelsroetes. In werklikheid staan alle bedrywighede en verandering in 'n dorp of streek in verhouding tot die materiële bestaansbasis.

Materiële oorwegings kan dus as die hoofdryfveer van verandering en ontwikkeling beskou word. Sodra die bestaande ekonomiese struktuur gewysig of verbreed word, vind verandering onvermydelik ook op ander terreine soos die sosiale, politieke en kulturele plaas. Voorbeelde hiervan is die ingrypende verandering in die samelewingstruktuur ten opsigte van bevolkingsamestelling en -verspreiding, gemeenskapsfasiliteite en infrastruktuur, produksie- en sosiale verhoudings na die ontdekking van minerale in Suid-Afrika. In hierdie uitgawe van Contree verskyn juis artikels wat die invloed van ekonomiese verandering en uitbreiding op gemeenskappe weerspieël.

Sonder om ekonomiese geskiedenis te verabsoluteer - dit kan immers nooit van sy sosiale konteks losgemaak word nie - of om noodwendig klassieke historiese materialisme klakkeloos na te volg, kan 'n studie rondom die materiële basis as die 'prime mover of society' en die kragte wat dit voortbring, beslis bydra om die ideaal van 'n meer geïntegreerde benadering tot plaaslike en streekgeskiedenis binne die bereik te plaas.

P.H.R. Snyman

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