Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Department of African Studies

Agricultural Labour and Education in Twentieth Century South Africa

Project leader: Dr. Julia Tischler


The project investigates into the relation between education and labour in South African agriculture in the twentieth century. I seek to find out how the increase in formal agrarian education impacted on concepts and practices of labour, focusing firstly on the connection between ‘scientisation’ and agricultural work during South Africa’s ‘Green Revolution’ and secondly on the educational work performed by teachers, extension officers, and other agricultural experts.

Scholars have referred to the twentieth century, particularly the time period between 1910-50, as South Africa’s ‘agricultural revolution’. However, the marked increase in agricultural production was not evenly spread. Rather, the time period marks the beginning of the growing division within South African agriculture, that is, the parallel existence of a commercial, large-scale sector on the one hand and subsistence-based farming on the other which persists until today. At the time of South Africa’s Green Revolution, we furthermore see a marked rise in the availability of (state-sponsored) educational programmes. Agricultural colleges, university faculties, farming courses in schools, or demonstration services were important measures to promote ‘scientific farming’.

My project looks at the inter-relation between labour and education with respect to land – one of the most politicised resources in the South African settler colonial context. I focus on the former province of Transvaal and the Orange Free State from after the Second South African War (1902) until about the 1970s. Regional findings will be considered in relation to the broader national framework as well as regarding international entanglements with other settler colonies.