“Booking you thesis”: Impressive turnout for Professor Charles van Onselen’s seminar presentation

Posted on June 14, 2021

The Department of Historical and Heritage Studies and the Faculty of Humanities hosted a talk given by Professor Charles van Onselen on 7 June 2021.

The seminar presentation was entitled “Booking your thesis: Turning your postgraduate research into a monograph”. The talk attracted a record turnout of 280 people. This was such a topical discussion and timeous seminar marked by critical engagement in the question and answer segment. 

Professor Charles van Onselen is an internationally renowned historian and a National Research Foundation (NRF) A-rated scholar. His books have won impressive prizes such as the Trevor Reese Memorial Prize for Commonwealth and Imperial history (1984); the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award non-fiction (1997; 2008); the Herskowitz Prize of the African Studies Association [USA] (1997); and the ASSAf Humanities Book Award Prize (2021).

Professor van Onselen was very well placed to give advice on book publishing given his own experience, as is the discussant Professor Alois Mlambo who also has many books under his belt. Professor Mlambo, an internationally renowned scholar, has also supervised many students at all academic levels. The seminar was a rare privilege to tap into the experience and expertise of Professors van Onselen and Mlambo.

Professor van Onselen’s presentation touched on aspects that affect many postdoctoral fellows and early to mid-career faculty staff who try to balance their work demands and maintain a reasonable publication record. He recognized that the thesis is usually just read, for the most part by supervisors and examiners and many excellent theses end up forgotten. Yet some of these studies make critical contributions to knowledge that should be published. Professor van Onselen also discussed the critical choices about how to produce a proposal, the choice of publishers to approach and the process of turning theses into monographs. Professor van Onselen provided well-received advise on the different options on publishing PhD research as books. 

As discussant, Professor Mlambo engaged Professor van Onselen’s talk and reiterated the need to avoid vanity presses and predatory publishers. Prof Mlambo discussed van Onselen’s work, citing how illustrative it was in terms of prose, style and approach and as an example for historians and other academics to read and to follow. Professor Mlambo ended his discussion on a light note, saying how he wished a professor like Chares van Onselen had been available when he was still starting out.

Those who attended the seminar were privileged to have both van Onselen and Mlambo available to discuss issues that concern many early to mid-career scholars, providing advice on publishing, which they did so impressively at this seminar. 

For those who failed to attend the live presentation, please find a link to the recording here.


- Author Tinashe Nyamunda

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