Turning Points in History: Bk. 4: Industrialisation, Rural Change and Nationalism

Industrialisation and rural change were key processes that helped to shape South African society. They impacted on black social life and politics in a particular way. In the first half of the twentieth century, the mid-1940s stand out as a particularly important period in this respect. The war years saw significant changes as far as the labour force was concerned. Many black families from the rural areas migrated to the urban centres. As demonstrated in Chapter 1 by Rachidi Molapo, the migration of families, as opposed to individuals, bore testimony - the dissolution of the rural economy and a society which had already suffered during the depression of the early 1930s. Formal black politics shifted in accordance with wider developments, as Mohamed Adhikari shows in Chapter 2, with his analysis of the impact of the war years on the African National Congress. The same processes of industrialisation and rural change also affected Afrikaners. Afrikaner nationalism during the 1930s and 1940s was at least in part a response to the cutting of class divides created by increased urbanisation. At the same time, the nineteenth century image of a triumphal Great Trek was used in an attempt to revert to a romantic rural ideal. These strands and their consequences are teased out by Albert Grundlingh in Chapter 3.