Contemporary African history in unusual times


  • Neil Roos University of the Free State, South Africa
  • Tinashe Nyamunda North-West University, South Africa
  • Suraj Yengde Harvard University, United States
  • Joyline T Kufandirori University of the Free State, South Africa



Initially, we envisaged that this editorial essay would focus on history-writing in the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. In particular, we hoped to examine how that self-proclaimed moment of technological evangelism raises questions about the future of society and whether, paradoxically, the study of the past might provide a beacon, a pilot light, to navigate these unknown places. Tapping into the 1923 debates between biochemist John Burdon Sanderson Haldane and philosopher Bertrand Russell about technology and moral progress, we wanted to ask what work needs to be done to develop a novel ethic to match our technological ingenuity – and the role of history, the history of Africa, in developing this. This undertaking seemed particularly germane, given how history and other critical disciplines were by-passed and disregarded by boosters of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the progressive New World that some believed it heralded.


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