A Case of Arrested Development: The Historiography Relating to South Africa’s Participation in the Second World War

David Katz


The quantity and quality of military historical work on the participation of South Africa in the Second World War, with few exceptions, namely that of a few significant academic contributions over the last decade, lags appreciably compared to the plethora of titles offered on all aspects of the war in the buoyant international market. This article investigates and evaluates more important South African primary and secondary sources pertaining to the Union Defence Force’s participation in the Second World War, highlighting available sources and limitations in published material. Possible opportunities for further research are identified where there are areas of historiographical hiatus.  Reasons are offered for what amounts to a rather threadbare South African historiography, especially when compared to the prolific historiographical output of other belligerents. The article offers a brief survey of primary sources, identifying some of the archives that have received scant attention. Then follows an analysis of secondary sources broken down into official, semi-official and general history that examines their methodological integrity and completeness with a view to identifying what historical contributions may still be made in the light of what has been produced.


Union War Histories; South Africa; Union Defence Force; South African military historiography; Second World War; Official histories

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5787/40-3-1034


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Copyright (c) 2018 David Katz

ISSN 2224-0020 (online); ISSN 1022-8136 (print)

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