SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

H380 South African Apartheid: Origins, Experience and Aftermath

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year

This course examines the history of apartheid in twentieth-century South Africa. Using a combination of primary and secondary sources, the course traces the social, economic and intellectual origins of apartheid during the early decades of the twentieth century. The course further examines the nature of state policy and is especially concerned to investigate the lived experiences of black South Africans under apartheid rule; it concludes with an examination of the end of apartheid and the nature of post-apartheid South African society.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

Understand the key differences between segregationist practices of the first half the twentieth century and apartheid policies of the period after the Second World War.
LO2. Have an appreciation of the consequences of state policies on the lived experiences of 'ordinary people.'
LO3. Understand the achievement and limitations of black resistance under apartheid
LO4. Understand the achievements and limitations of political transformation
LO5. Critically assess primary sources


1 hour lecture

1 hour Seminar

Scope and syllabus

Origins and nature of segregation during the early years of the twentieth century
African poverty and urbanisation.
The Great Depression and the interwar years
The rise and victory of Afrikaner nationalism
Consequences of the Second World War and the changing nature of urban labour
African urban communities during the 1950s
Apartheid in the countryside
Forced removals and their consequences
Black resistance and African nationalism
The long demise of the Apartheid state
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission
The post-apartheid state
Black and white lives after apartheid

Method of assessment

3 hr Exam (50%)

AS1 - 3,000 word essay (25%)

AS2 - 3,000 word essay (25%)

Suggested reading

  1. Beinart, W. Twentieth-century South Africa (Oxford, 2001)
  2. Clarke, N.L and W.H. Worger, South Africa: the rise and fall of apartheid (Abingdon and New York, 2016)
  3. Ross, R. A concise history of South Africa (2nd edition, Cambridge, 2008)
  4. Ross, R. et al. (eds.). The Cambridge History of South Africa, volume 2 (Cambridge, 2011) 
  5. Thompson, L. A history of South Africa (4th edition, New Haven and London, 2014) 
  6. Worden, N. The making of modern South Africa: conquest, apartheid, democracy (5th edition, Hoboken, N.J. 2012)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules