josé manuel de prada-samper on the genocide of the san


José Manuel de Prada-Samper, ‘The forgotten killing fields: “San” genocide and Louis Anthing’s mission to Bushmanland’, 1862-1863, Historia 57, 1 (2012).

Mohamed Adhikari’s book The Anatomy of a South African Genocide is a synthesis of the research on the extermination of the San peoples of South Africa and aims to establish that such extermination must be considered genocide. Unfortunately, the book is based exclusively on published sources, and especially with regard to the nineteenth century, fails to consider archival and other sources that throw much light on the fate of the San, most notably the corpus of documents on the mission that the resident magistrate and civil commissioner of Namaqualand, Louis Anthing, undertook in 1862 to investigate reports of massacres of San bands in Bushmanland. Adhikari’s book also suffers from the fact that he refers to “the San”, while it is methodologically more correct to distinguish clearly between the different San populations and to address the history of specific groups in specific areas of southern Africa. Another major weakness is his placement of almost exclusive blame for the extermination of the San on “Dutch-speaking pastoralists”, downplaying sources that point to the heavy involvement of Baster, Griqua and Khoi groups in the destruction of the hunter-gatherer bands. The case study of Louis Anthing’s mission to Bushmanland, which proves that there was indeed genocide in Bushmanland in the second half of the nineteenth century, is presented in detail to show that an engagement with archival sources is essential to grasp the tragedy of the San in all its complexity.

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