Professor Saul Dubow

Smuts Professor of Commonwealth History
Fellow Magdalene College
Saul Dubow

I was born in South Africa and educated at the University of Cape Town before studying at St.Antony’s College, Oxford, where I completed my doctorate in 1986. A spell at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (London) as British Academy postdoctoral fellow lead to my first academic appointment at the University of Sussex, where I remained until 2012, leaving to take up a position as professor of African History at Queen Mary, University of London. In 2017 I joined the University of Cambridge as Smuts Professor of Commonwealth History.

As someone shaped intellectually and politically by growing up in South Africa, most of my work reflects this experience - even my first small monograph on the recondite topic of merino sheep farming in the mid-nineteenth century Cape.

I have published two books on the history of racial segregation and apartheid in South Africa; a study of eugenics and scientific racism; and a book on the influence of scientific and literary thought on the making of white South African national identity. I have also written two shorter books on the history of the African National Congress and on the history of human rights. My newest work, `The Scientific Imagination in South Africa 1700 to the Present’ written with William Beinart, will be published by Cambridge.

I have produced six edited books on the Afrikaner Broederbond; Wulf Sachs and psychoanalysis in South Africa; segregation and apartheid; the history of science in southern Africa; and on the social, ideological and economic effects of the war years South Africa. A new edited collection, with Richard Drayton, will be published this year entitled Twenty-First Century Commonwealth Perspectives.

My ongoing interests lie in the history of segregation and apartheid; in Commonwealth, imperial and post-colonial history; in the history of science; and in the political dimensions of global intellectual thought. I see South Africa not only as a distillation of many of the modern problems that face us, but also as an entry-point into world history.

Paper 23 World History Since 1914

Themes and Sources Themes & Sources: Comparative histories of race, class and culture: Southern Africa, 1850-2013

Paper 29 - The history of Africa from 1800 to the present day

MPhil Option: Empires in Comparative Perspective


I supervise several MPhil students each year on topics related to the Commonwealth, South Africa, and World History.

My current doctoral students are working on themes ranging from the political and cultural aspects of the Commonwealth; Commonwealth immigration and citizenship; the German diaspora in the 18th century Cape; black South African intellectuals and artists living in exile; the urban history of modern Pretoria and the skull of Mkwawa, an African rebel from East Africa.

Editorial board of the Journal of  Southern African Studies (and an ex-chair of the board)

Editorial board, South African Journal of Science

Series co-editor Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series (Palgrave Macmillan)

Chair Management Committee, Centre of African Studies, Cambridge

Research Professor, African Studies Centre, University of Cape Town

Fellow, Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Studies

Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

I have been regularly interviewed on radio and television on topics and themes bearing on modern South African politics.


Tags & Themes


Magdalene College, Cambridge CB3OAG


Key Publications

Books and Edited Collections

1982 Land, Labour and Merchant Capital: the Experience of the Graaff-Reinet District in the pre-Industrial Rural Economy of the Cape, 1852-72, Centre of African Studies, UCT, Communications no.6, 1982, 95pp.

1989 Racial Segregation and the Origins of Apartheid in Twentieth Century South Africa, 1919-36 (London:Macmillan, 1989), 250pp.

1990 Revised, edited and preface to C.Bloomberg’s Christian-Nationalism and the Developmentof the Afrikaner Broederbond, 1918-48 (London:Macmillan,1990) 250pp.

1995 Scientific Racism in Modern South Africa (Cambridge: CUP, 1995) 313pp.

1995 editor of and contributor to (with William Beinart), Segregation and Apartheid in Twentieth-Century South Africa (London:Routledge,1995) 288pp.

1996 editor of (with Jacqueline Rose) and contributor to W.Sachs, Black Hamlet (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996) 340pp.

2000 editor of (with preface and contribution) Science and Society in Southern Africa (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000) 241pp.

2000 The African National Congress (Stroud:Sutton,2000) 114pp. (translated into Arabic, 2010)

2005 editor with Alan Jeeves South Africa’s 1940s: Worlds of Possibilities (Cape Town: Double Storey, 2005) 289pp.

2006 A Commonwealth of Knowledge: Science, Sensibility and White South Africa 1820-2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006) 296pp.

2012 South Africa’s Struggle for Human Rights (Johannesburg and Ohio, 2012), 151pp.

2013 editor (with introduction and chapter) The Rise and Fall of Modern Empires, Volume II:  Colonial Knowledges (Ashgate, 2013), 596pp.

2014 Apartheid: 1948-1994 (Oxford, 2014), 360pp.

2020 editor with Richard Drayton, Commonwealth History in the Twenty-First Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) 348pp.

2020-21 The Scientific Imagination in South Africa 1700 to the Present (With William Beinart) CUP, forthcoming

Articles and book chapters 

1986 ‘Holding “a Just Balance Between Black and White”: The Native Affairs Department in South Africa,c.1920-36’, in Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol.XII, pp.217-40.

1987 ‘Race, Civilisation and Culture: the Development of Segregationist Discourse in the Inter-War Years’, in S.Marks and S.Trapido (eds), The Politics of Race, Class and Nationalism in Twentieth Century South Africa (London: Longman, 1987), pp.71-94.

1991 ‘Mental Testing and the Understanding of “Race”in Twentieth-Century South Africa’, in T.Meade and M.Walker  (eds), Science, Medicine, and Cultural
Imperialism (New York:St Martin’s Press, 1991), pp.148-177.

1992 ‘Afrikaner Nationalism, Apartheid and the Conceptualization of “Race”’, in Journal of African History, 33, 1992, pp.209-237.
also published in: Al-Fikr Al_Arabi, Spring 1994, pp.180-207

1993 ‘Black Hamlet: a Case of “PsychicVivisection”?’, in L.Bryce Boyer (eds) The Psychoanalytic Study of Society Vol.18 (New Jersey,
1993), pp.171-210
also published as:
1993 ‘Wulf Sachs’s Black Hamlet: A Case of “Psychic Vivisection”?’, in African Affairs, 92,369,1993, pp.519-556.

1994 Ethnic Euphemisms and Racial Echoes’, in Journal of Southern African Studies 20,3,1994, pp. 355-70.

1994 Joint editor of, and joint introduction to, (with Edwin Wilmsen and John Sharp), Journal of Southern African Studies special issue on ‘Ethnicity and Identity’, 20,3,1994.

1996 Human Origins, Race Typology and the Other Raymond Dart’, African Studies, 55,1,1996, pp.1-30. 
1997 ‘Colonial Nationalism, The Milner Kindergarten     and the Rise of ‘South Africanism’, 1902-10, History Workshop Journal 43, 1997, pp.53-85 

1997 `Christopher Fyfe: A Comment', in S. McGrath et al., Rewriting African History (Edinburgh, 1997)

1998`Placing “race” in South African History’, in W.Lamont (ed.), Historical Controversies and Historians (London, 1998), pp.65-79

2000`A Commonwealth of Science: The British Association in South Africa, 1905 and 1929’, in S.Dubow (ed) Science and Society in Southern Africa  (Manchester University Press, 2000), pp.66-99.

2001 `Patriotism of Place and Race: Hancock on South Africa’, in A.D.Low (ed) Keith Hancock: The legacies of an historian (Melbourne University Press, 2001) (with S.Marks), pp.149-179.

2001`Scientism, social research and the limits of South Africanism: the case of E.G. Malherbe’, South African Historical Journal, 44 (2001),  99-143

2002 `Imagining the “New” South Africa in the Age of Reconstruction, 1902-12’, in D.Omissi and A.S.Thompson (eds), The Impact of the South African War (Palgrave, 2002) pp.76-95.

2003 `Opération coup de poing’, Archaeological Dialogues 10 (2003), 1-7

2004 `Earth History, Natural History, and Prehistory at the Cape, 1860-1875’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 46 (2004), 107-133

2005 `Introduction: South Africa’s 1940s’, in S.Dubow and A.Jeeves (eds), South Africa’s 1940s: Worlds of Possibilities (Cape Town: Double Storey, 2005), 1-19

2007 `Thoughts on South Africa: Some preliminary ideas’ in Hans Erik Stolten (ed), History Making and Present Day Politics. The Meaning of Collective Memory in South Africa (Uppsala, 2007), 51-72

2007 `White South Africa and the South Africanisation of Science: Humankind or Kinds of Humans?’, in P.Bonner et al. (eds), A Search for Origins. Science, History and South Africa’s “Cradle of Humankind”’, (Johannesburg, 2007), 9-22

2008 `The New Age of Imperialism: British and South African perspectives’, in Mary N. Harris and Csaba Lévai (eds) Europe and its Empires (Pisa, 2008), 1-16;

2008 `Smuts, the United Nations and the Rhetoric of Race and Rights’,Journal of Contemporary History 43, 1 (2008), 43-72.

2008 `W.K.Hancock and the Question of Race’, in Wm.Roger Louis (ed), Ultimate Adventures with Britannia (London and Austin), 247-262

2009 `How British was the British World? The Case of South Africa`, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History,  37, (2009), 1–27

2010 `Keith Hancock, Race, and Empire’, in C.Hall and K.McClelland (eds), Race, Nation and Empire. Making Histories 1750 to the Present’ , (Manchester, 2010)

2010 `South Africa: Paradoxes in the Place of Race’, in Alison Bashford and Philippa Levine (eds), The Oxford Handbook of The History of Eugenics (Oxford),274-288.

2011  ` South Africa and South Africans: Nationality, Belonging, Citizenship’ opening chapter in The Cambridge History of South Africa, Volume 2 (Cambridge), 17-65

2011 `Macmillan, Verwoerd, and the 1960 “Wind of Change” Speech’, Historical Journal 54, 4 (2011), 1087-1114

2013  `Macmillan, Verwoerd, and the 1960 “Wind of Change” Speech’ in L.J.Butler and S.Stockwell (eds), The Wind of Change (London: Palgrave, 2013) pp.20-47

2014 `Uncovering the Historic Strands of Egalitarian Liberalism in South Africa’, Theoria 61, 3 (2014) pp.7-24

2015 `Were there Political Alternatives in the Wake of the Sharpeville-Langa Violence in South Africa, 1960? Journal of African History 56, 1 (2015), pp.119-142

2015 `Racial Irredentism, Ethnogenesis, and White Supremacy in High-Apartheid South Africa’, Kronos, 41, 1(2015), pp.236-264

2017:`The Commonwealth and South Africa: from Smuts to Mandela’, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 45, 2 (2017) pp.284-314

2017  `New Approaches to High Apartheid and Anti-Apartheid’, South African Historical Journal 69, 2 (2017), pp.304-229

2018 `Henri Breuil and the Imagination of Prehistory: `Mixing up Rubble, Trouble and Stratification’, South African Archaeological Society Goodwin Series 12, (2019), 31-43

2019 `South Africa’s Racist Founding Father Was Also a Human Rights Pioneer’, New York Times (Op.ed, 18th May,

2019 `200 Years of Astronomy in South Africa: From the Royal Observatory to the `Big Bang’ of the Square Kilometre Array’, Journal of Southern African Studies 45, 4 (2019), 663-87.

2019 `Karoo Futures: Astronomy in Place and Space – Introduction’, with C.Walker and D.Chinigo, Journal of Southern African Studies 45, 4 (2019) 627-640.

2019 `Rhodes Must Fall, Brexit, and Circuits of Knowledge and Influence’, in S.Ward and A.Rasch (eds), Embers of Empire in Brexit Britain (Bloomsbury, London, 2019), pp.111-120.

2020 `Global Science, National Horizons: South Africa in Deep Time and Space’, Historical Journal (2020)