The Number of the South African War (1899-1902) Concentration Camp Dead: Standard Stories, Superior Stories and a Forgotten Proto-Nationalist Research Investigation

Liz Stanley, Helen Dampier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Tilly extols the power and compass of 'superior stories' compared with 'standard stories'. However, things are not always so clear cut, as the case study discussed here shows. A 1906 – 1914 research investigation headed by P. L. A. Goldman, which has initially concerned with the enumeration and commemoration of the deaths of Boer combatants during the South African War (1899-1902), and later with the deaths of people in the concentration camps established in the commando phase of this war, is explored in detail using archived documents. Now largely forgotten, the investigation was part of a commemorative project which sought to replace competing stories about wartime events with one superior version, as seen from a proto-nationalist viewpoint. Goldman, the official in charge, responded to a range of methodological and practical difficulties in dealing with a huge amount of data received from a wide variety of sources, and eventually produced 'the number' as politically and organisationally required. However, another number of the South African War concentration camp dead - different from Goldman's, and also added up incorrectly - concurrently appeared on a national women's memorial, the Vrouemonument, and it is this which has resounded subsequently. The reasons are traced to the character of stories and their power, and the visibility of stories about the concentration camp deaths on the face of the Vrouemonument, but their anonymity within Goldman's production of 'the number'. Tilly's idea of an 'in-between' approach to analysing stories by historical sociology is drawn on in exploring this.
Original languageEnglish
Article number13
JournalSociological Research Online
Volume14
Issue number5
Early online date30 Nov 2009
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Keywords

  • Concentration Camps
  • South African War
  • Proto-Nationalism
  • Research Methodology
  • Stories
  • Historical Sociology
  • Archival Research
  • Charles Tilly

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The Number of the South African War (1899-1902) Concentration Camp Dead: Standard Stories, Superior Stories and a Forgotten Proto-Nationalist Research Investigation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this