Botswana (Bechuanaland)

John D. Holm

in African Studies

Published online September 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199846733 | DOI:

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Botswana became independent in 1966. Previously, it was a protectorate of the United Kingdom, which ruled the territory from the South African town of Mafeking (now Mafikeng). Called Bechuanaland, the protectorate was established in 1885. It brought together eight Tswana ethnic groups of varying size, some other smaller Bantu groups such as the Bayei, the Hambukushu, and the Bahero, and a collection of hunter-gatherer communities, often collectively called the San, Basarwa, or Bushmen. This mix of ethnicities has coexisted in varying degrees of conflict and cooperation on the Kalahari Desert and adjoining low-rainfall savannah regions for between five hundred and around thousand years. Botswana is of particular interest to scholars for a number of reasons. It has shown remarkable progress relative to most African countries in terms of democracy, economic development, and education. Additionally, the government and people have addressed extensively, if not always successfully, a number of important development issues including corruption, conservation, social justice, HIV/AIDS, and rights of indigenous peoples. The literature examining these myriad of state-initiated social programs has been of relatively high quality and extensive, especially for a country of slightly more than 2.2 million people. Overall writing on Botswana can be divided into two parts. One is the colonial and immediate postcolonial period (1950s through mid-1980s) when European and American authors produced most of the important writing. Starting in the late 1980s, a growing number of Botswana intellectuals began to complete their graduate education and begin scholarly careers. They inevitably developed different perspectives from those of their outsider predecessors. A significant number of these new voices are on the faculty of the University of Botswana where they have considerable financial support relative to most African universities to the north. A number of the local scholars have engaged in serious and long-term research projects. The university has also offered a modicum of political protection so that staff members can put forward arguments at odds with the government’s vision and policies. The result is an expanded range of points of view on development issues, international and local, than is found in many African countries.

Article.  16395 words. 

Subjects: African History ; African Languages ; African Music ; African Philosophy ; African Studies

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