Jonathan Pegg
Literary Agency

South Africa:
The First Man, The Last Nation

R W Johnson South AfircaAfrica is the cradle of mankind and the first traces of modern man come from South Africa. But the country has also experienced waves of inward migration from the earliest times, and the turmoil and wars that accompany them. Dutch settlers landed at Table Bay in 1652. In the young colony inter-racial marriages were common but the segregationist trend was soon clear.

The 19th century saw the rise of several African states, notably the Zulus under their leader Shaka; the Zulu wars; the discovery of diamonds and then gold. And then in 1899 the Boer War, with its bitter aftermath. After 1918 Afrikaner nationalism began to gather momentum and in 1948 apartheid became official policy. But soon the ANC had its own momentum. After Sharpeville came the Rivonia trial, the Soweto uprising, the death of Steve Biko and the United Democratic Front.

But it was economic problems and the end of the Cold War which finally finished apartheid and released Nelson Mandela in 1990. Since 1994 crime, unemployment and inequality have flourished alongside the callousness of Thabo Mbeki's regime.

The author delivers frank and devastating judgements both on the apartheid years and government by the new ANC elite. For this is a country that still awaits a government who will govern for the whole nation.

UK Publisher: Orion Books
Hardcover (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) 2004; Paperback 2005 
US & Translation rights: Orion
272 pages


'Johnson's new history of South Africa is absolutely gripping, and a masterful example of one man's commitment to the historical truth in the face of his own opinions and those of society.'
Catholic Herald

'A challenging, robustly honest account of South African history in the round.'
Literary Review

'Johnson shows his mastery of both the broad sweep and the complexities of history without bias.'
Anthony Sampson, Evening Standard

'This is a well written and necessary book which challenges the myths draping the rainbow nation.'
Daily Telegraph

'It is splendidly argumentative history, and great fun...But the argument rings loud and clear.'
Financial Times



'a remarkable and brilliant analysis...exhilarating sense of a dispassionate and implacable determination to arrive at a true and comprehensive assessment of South Africa's situation..The best book on the subject anyone is likely to see for years.'
The Economist

'a book of exceptional interest, a dazzling tour de force of analytic and narrative mastery, which should be read by all who think they know something about South Africa.'
Richard West, The Daily Telegraph

'..if you are reading only one book on contemporary South Africa this year, make it this one.'
Gary Wasserman, NY Times Book Review

'Johnson adopts a narrative style and writes with great verve and self-assurance, studding his account with some brilliant insights.'
Stanley Uys, TLS

'The most consistently intelligent, interesting and informative work to have been written about that troubled country in many years.'
Marcel Berlins, TES

'This is the book one has been waiting for about South Africa...written with the racy and cynical readability of a thriller...essential reading for anyone interested in Africa, international relations or the world recession.'
Martin Walker, The Guardian

"I doubt whether the extremely complex international ramifications of the South African imbroglio have ever been so lucidly and competently explored before for the general reader at any rate. And this is a book for the general reader.'
Conor Cruise O'Brien

'Johnson's writing is brisk, clear and unadorned, as he summarises the conclusions of legions of scholars from a wide array of disciplines.'


Click on book cover below for more information

R W Johnson South Africa's Brave New World