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Africa and the Second World War

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

Second World War Research Group, Southern Africa Conference, University of Stellenbosch

27-29 May 2020

POSTPONED to 2021 due to the COVID19 pandemic

The conference will be held at the Wallenberg Pavilion, at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study.

The same week as the conference, the University of Stellenbosch is hosting a symposium to commemorate, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jan Smuts, South Africa's wartime prime minister.

Field Marshal Jan Smuts standing in front of his personal transport aircraft, an ex-South African Airways Lockheed Lodestar, which he used to tour the North African front. (Source: © IWM (TR 5))

The Second World War has shaped the world in which we live. The Second World War was the defining episode of the twentieth century. A truly total and global war, the scale of the carnage outstripped the Great War in physical destruction and dislocation and the loss of human life. The death tally was not only higher, but civilian non-combatants formed a far greater proportion. As a result, life in 1946 was vastly different from that in 1938. Societal relations changed irrevocably and the war, marked by rapid, unprecedented technological change, ushered in the nuclear age and changed thinking about strategy and tactics and the application of military power. It was also a major watershed in terms of how ordinary people thought, highlighting new divisions, but also new possibilities. It brought a truly global age: travel became much more accessible, ideas now moved more freely, colonialism was ended together with the political hegemony of Western Europe and North America, ushering in a bipolar, Cold-War era.

This conference seeks to bring together scholars to examine the African campaigns of the war and the naval operations in African waters and explore the implications these held for those that fought and particularly for the peoples of the African continent. The event will be hosted in the same week as a symposium to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jan Smuts, South Africa’s wartime prime minister.

Paper and panel proposals are invited. Contributions covering the African campaigns or taking thematic approaches are equally welcomed. Participants will be invited to discuss new research and provide expert feedback. A book publication is planned.

Politics and alliances / National interest / Defence policy / Intelligence and the threat perception / Societies at war / Homefronts / Mobilisation / Production and consumption / Economics / Industry / Resistance to the war / Propaganda / Military organisation, force design, preparation / Campaigns and battles / Soldier experiences / Veterans’ tales

The current deadline to submit a proposal (a title and a 300-word abstract with short cv) is 1 October 2019. We aim to have completed papers for the conference, which we hope to share a fortnight before the event. A full timeline to follow.

Address submissions and enquiries to:

Ian van der Waag (

Kent Fedorowich (

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