White supremacist South Africa’s Department of External Affairs was set up in 1927 to demonstrate the country’s political independence of the United Kingdom. It operated under various names until the régime gave way to a democratically-elected government in 1994. Unlike its counterparts in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, which had long included in their structures sections of historians tasked to research those countries’ diplomatic history, the South African department was never historically-aware. There was even a time in the 1980s when it compelled the National Archives to prohibit scholarly access to all foreign affairs records from the time of Union in 1910 (Pienaar, 1987). It is, therefore, not without irony that in 1990, during the régime’s death throes, departmental management itself commissioned a history of the department. After several hiccups including a retired official’s lengthy, self-imposed search for a publisher, this was eventually published. This article examines the book (Wheeler and Shearar, 2005) and the circumstances of its publication.
Key words: Book review, white South Africa, Department of Foreign Affairs, external relations.
*Adapted from a paper presented to a biennial conference of the Australian Historical Association.
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