By Nicole Sithole
Charles van Onselen, The Night Trains: Moving Mozambican Miners to and from South Africa, circa 1902-1955. (Jonathan Ball, 2019), £25.00.
The Night Trains is a riveting account of the gruesome experiences of black men from the Sul du Save in Mozambique, on board ghostly night trains which transported them back and forth to the coal and gold mines in South Africa. Over a period of four decades, these trains operated on the Eastern Main Line which connected Johannesburg to Lourenço Marques (Maputo). These trains acted as agents of underdevelopment for black societies in the Sul du Save through the mass exportation of men to the labour hungry mines. This succinct book brings to the fore a topic that has, to the author’s surprise, not solicited much historical attention. This is even though “the Eastern Main Line and the seemingly endless supply of black labour that it conveyed across the face of the southern African plateau formed the umbilical cord and lifeblood that gave birth to the mining revolution that took place on the Witwatersrand between the two world wars.”1
By Jordan Buchanan
Augustine Sedgewick, Coffeeland (Allen Lane, 2020), £25.00.
In Coffeeland, Augustine Sedgewick achieves the often-elusive goal of creating an academic history that is enjoyable for the non-professional history enthusiast. Coffee is a product so closely attached to complex historical themes that this history could easily have become an esoteric one. By taking the reader on a biographical journey entwined with world history, Sedgewick creates a work that accessibly demonstrates the complexity of its main theme of global capitalism.
Mobeen Hussain (@amhuss27) reviews Samia Khatun’s Australianama (Hurst Publishers, December 2018, ISBN 9781849049696 £25.00)
In Australianama, author and academic Samia Khatun skilfully weaves an intricate patchwork of hitherto unexplored connections between South Asia and Australia. I first heard about Australianama at an Islam and Print in South Asia Workshop at the British Library where Khatun was presenting on her work on South Asian peoples in Australia. She shared her research journey, relating how she came across a photograph of a book labelled as the Quran located in the desert lands of Australia in Broken Hill, noting how the words looked like Bengali script. At the workshop, as well as in the book, she shared her experience of visiting the mosque to find that the book was not the Quran but a book of Bengali Sufi poetry called Kasasol Ambia (Stories of the Prophets), all the while wondering how a book published in Bengal found its way to an inland Australian mining town. (Khatun, 3) This question is where Khatun’s Australianama begins.
Inspiring historical writing brings our discipline alive. DHP editors Carys Brown, James Dowsett, Louise Moschetta, Tom Smith, and Alex Wakelam give their personal recommendations.
By Julia Bourke
Every history has a beginning. But if you were attempting to write a complete history of human beings, where would you choose to start? Daniel Smail attempts to answer this question in his book On Deep History and the Brain, which looks at history from a completely different perspective than a historian normally would.
by Tiia Sahrakorpi
While there are a plethora of works on Nazis from every aspect ever, and no list can include everything, I’ve picked out my favourite books and the most useful books that I’ve used for my research at both a BA level and MPhil/MA level. These works are just starting-off points on Nazi German cultural and social history that have always jumped out of bibliographies.
By Joan Redmond
Northern Ireland and its troubled past has been in the news a lot in the past few months. First, there were the failed 2013 negotiations chaired by Richard Haass that aimed to deal with the legacy of the Troubles; in the past few weeks, controversy has again erupted over the collapse of the John Downey trial, and the ‘secret’ letters issued to on-the-run IRA members. Northern Ireland continues to be a troubled land, and in John Gibney’s book, he examines the afterlife of one of the most important events in Irish history, and the breeding ground of subsequent conflict.