Journal Article

The Languages of Loyalism in Southern Africa, <i>c</i>. 1870–1939

Andrew Thompson

in The English Historical Review

Volume 118, issue 477, pages 617-650
Published in print June 2003 | ISSN: 0013-8266
Published online June 2003 | e-ISSN: 1477-4534 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ehr/118.477.617
The Languages of Loyalism in Southern Africa, c. 1870–1939

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This essay explores the concept of ‘loyalism’ in the history of Southern Africa, c.1870–1939. Loyalism is frequently viewed as an overzealous affirmation of imperialism among minorities and fringe groups. In South Africa it was quite the reverse: a broad church in which very different kinds of imperial ‘faith’ could coexist. We should not, therefore, equate loyalism with Anglo‐Saxon imperialism: strong sentiments of support for the Crown and the Empire were expressed by a range of other communities, both African and Afrikaner. Loyalism, moreover, was socially diverse and highly regionalized; a phenomenon upon which no one section of South African society could ever claim a complete monopoly, but which played a powerful role in shaping the self‐perception and world views of many South Africans. However, equally striking is the fact that loyalty to the British Empire formed the basis of an identity in which a good many South Africans never felt very secure. For South African as much as Ulster loyalists, ‘betrayal’ was a very popular word. Indeed, more than in any of Britain's other dominions, it is arguable that a loyalist identity in South Africa failed to fully consolidate itself or completely to cohere.

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Subjects: British History ; World History ; European History ; International History

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