Professor Charles van Onselen

Charles van Onselen holds a B.Sc. and U.E.D. from Rhodes University, a B.A. Hons. (Wits), a D.Phil. from Oxford University and a D.Lit.(Honoris Causa) from Rhodes University.  He is the author of articles in leading international journals devoted to historical studies including the American Historical Review, Annales, The Historical Journal and Past and Present,  History Workshop Journal and the  Law and History Review.

Book authored by him include Chibaro: African Mine Labour in Southern Rhodesia 1900-1933 (London 1976);  New Babylon and New Nineveh:  Studies in the Social and Economic History of the Witwatersrand, 1886-1914 (London and New York City 1982, reprinted, Johannesburg 2001); The Seed is Mine:  The Life of Kas Maine, A South African Sharecropper, 1894-1985 (London, Johannesburg and New York 1996); The Small Matter of a Horse:  The Life of ‘Nongoloza’ Mathebula, 1867-1948 (first published in Johannesburg 1984 and republished in Pretoria 2008); The Fox and the Flies; The World of Joseph Silver, Racketeer and Psychopath (London, Johannesburg and New York, 2007); and Masked Raiders:  Irish Banditry in Southern Africa 1880-1899 (Cape Town, 2010).

Recent publications include Showdown at the Red Lion: The Life and Times of Jack McLoughlin (Jonathan Ball, 2015); The Cowboy Capitalist: John Hays Hammond, The American West, and the Jameson Raid (Jonathan Ball, 2017) and The Night Trains - Moving Mozambican Miners to and From the Witwatersrand Mines, 1902-1955 (Jonathan Ball, 2019). 

He has been the recipient of the Trevor Reese Memorial Prize for Commonwealth and Imperial History (1984) as well as the Sunday Times (Johannesburg) Alan Paton prize for non-fiction (1997) and the Herskovitz Prize of the African Studies Association of America (1997).  The Fox and the Flies was short listed for the Alan Paton Prize (2008) and the Bill Venter Literary Award (2010).

In 2002 and 2009 he was accorded an ‘A’ rating as a social scientist by the National Research Foundation of South Africa. This rating was reconfirmed in 2009. He has also been a Visiting Fellow at Yale University (1978), Smuts Visiting Fellow, Churchill College Cambridge (1989),  Visiting Professor at the Ecole de Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris (1991), at Magdalen College, Oxford (2005);  and the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (2007).  In 1998 he was elected a member of the Royal Society of South Africa and, in 2012, invited to be the inaugural Oppenheimer Fellow in the W.E.B Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Studies at Harvard University.

Charles van Onselen has been a Research Professor in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Pretoria since 1999.

As of 2023, Professor van Onselen was working to complete a trilogy of works on the historical relationship between anglophone, capitalist, industrial, urbanized, Protestant South Africa and commercial, rural, lusophone, Catholic Mozambique between c. 1866 and 1975. Vol. 1 – ‘The Makings of an African Tragedy’ documents aspects of the economic history of the two countries. Vol. 11 – ‘Through the Turnstiles of the Mind’ – uses case studies of South African tourism in Mozambique and the rise and fall of Lourenço Marques Radio to illustrate ways in which whites on the Highveld experienced the freedoms of the neighbouring country. Vol 111 – ‘The Quest for Wealth without Work’ – is a history of the South African white working-class’s engagement with the Lourenço Marques Lottery – between c. 1914 and 1963.

This trilogy is scheduled to be published by Jonathan Ball Publishers, of Cape Town and Johannesburg, as a boxed set, in March 2023.






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