Connecting the local and the global in nineteenth century Southern and Central Africa Workshop

Connecting the local and the global in nineteenth century Southern and Central Africa Workshop

Bloemfontein, 10-12th October 2018


In the on-going collaborative research and network building efforts facilitated through a British Academy Newton Advanced Fellowship Scheme, the International Studies Group (ISG) hosted a 3 day academic workshop organised by Dr Lindie Koorts (University of the Free State) and Dr Matt Graham (University of Dundee) held in Bloemfontein.

The event, kindly funded by the British Academy, drew academics from across the world to discuss the latest research on how ‘local’ and ‘global’ issues inter-related to themes across Southern and Central Africa including: imperial finance networks, economic advantage, political rivalry, and migration. A crucial purpose of the panels was to enhance the research focus of Dr Koorts’, which seeks to examine Paul Kruger’s Transvaal in the late nineteenth century and to place it in its relevant international contexts. The invited speakers were able to accentuate and highlight the myriad of forces and influences operating across the region during the period, often in pursuit of very different purposes, and the ways in which they related to local or more global stimuli.

Professor Phimister’s keynote address.

The workshop drew together 14 invited speakers from across Southern Africa and Europe, as well as another 15 participants to the event, with the attendees welcomed to engaging and thought provoking papers addressing a diversity of thematics including, but not limited to imperial exploration in Zambia, Portuguese perspectives on Angola, peasants in Malawi, the Ottoman Empire and South African gold mining, industrial concessions in the Transvaal, and warfare in South Africa.

Getting prepared for Dr. Joanna Lewis keynote address

Each day began with a keynote address to set the tone and context of the forthcoming discussions, with excellent presentations from Professor Ian Phimister (UFS) and Dr Joanna Lewis (LSE), who accepted the invitation to speak at the event. Moreover, the workshop was extremely fortunate to have Emeritus Smuts Professor of Commonwealth History at the University of Cambridge Tony Hopkins in attendance, who acted as a discussant for the proceedings of each day, where he was able to offer insightful reflections and observations on the papers, themes, and inter-related issues, in order to draw common threads throughout the panels. His contributions and knowledge of the ongoing debates was much appreciated by scholars at all stages of their careers.

The speakers at the Big Hole, Kimberley

As part of the workshop, several historical trips were also organised to help place the themes and discussions into their relevant South African context, with excursions to the Women’s Monument and War Museum in Bloemfontein, and the Big Hole in Kimberley, a site which sparked the international rush for South Africa’s resources. These trips were invaluable in allowing the speakers to place the histories they were discussing against the contemporary memorialisation of these events.

The group at the National Women’s Monument, Bloemfontein


In sum, the workshop provided stimulating and engaging academic discussions which were of immense usefulness to this British Academy funded project, and provided the platform for future lines of enquiry for Dr Koorts. Importantly, the workshop facilitated and enabled a transnational network, in which scholarly relationships were forged, fruitfully bringing together academics from across the world; these links will undoubtedly outlive the duration of the funding period. A key academic output from the workshop will be a series of edited collection manuscripts that will pool together the knowledge and research of the speakers, and to enhance our deeper understanding of the local and global forces at work in Southern and Central Africa.

For more information contact:

Dr Lindie Koorts:

Dr Matt Graham: