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The Last Afrikaner Leaders

A Supreme Test of Power
Hermann Giliomee

BUY Paper · 448 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813934945 · $39.50 · Nov 2013
BUY Ebook · 448 pp. · ISBN 9780813934952 · $39.50 · Nov 2013

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, American Library Association (2014)

Finalist for the Alan Paton Award

In his latest book, renowned historian Hermann Giliomee challenges the conventional wisdom on the downfall of white rule and the end of apartheid. Instead of impersonal forces, or the resourcefulness of an indomitable resistance movement, he emphasizes the role of Nationalist leaders and of their outspoken critic Frederick van Zyl Slabbert. What motivated each of the last Afrikaner leaders, from Verwoerd to de Klerk? How did each try to reconcile economic growth, white privilege, and security with the demands of an increasingly assertive black leadership and unexpected population figures?

In exploring each leader’s background, reasoning, and personal foibles, Giliomee takes issue with the assumption that South Africa was inexorably heading for an ANC victory in 1994. He argues that historical accidents radically affected the course of politics.

Drawing on primary sources and personal interviews, Giliomee offers a fresh and stimulating political history that attempts not to condemn but to understand why the last Afrikaner leaders did what they did, and why their own policies ultimately failed them.

A 2014 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

Reconsiderations in Southern African History


This is an excellent book that breaks new ground in the writing of modern South African history. Giliomee’s stature as a historian has enabled him to gain easy access to many of the key people in the issues about which he writes. He does not shy away from challenging existing assumptions or prejudices. This is bound to set up interesting controversies that will enrich the debate about South Africa’s tangled, disputed past.

David Welsh, author of The Rise and Fall of Apartheid

This is contemporary history at its best, and most lively. No one knows the ins and outs of Afrikanerdom and Afrikaner politics in South Africa as well as Giliomee....Essential


A stunning achievement.

Athol Fugard on Hermann Giliomee's The Afrikaners: Biography of People

Utterly mesmerizing.

Anthony Leon, leader of the Democratic Alliance 1999-2007

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