Vol. 24 (2021): Cromohs

Precolonial African Historiography as a multidisciplinary project: The case of the Bahurutshe of the Marico

Jacobus Adriaan Du Pisani
Extraordinary Professor, North-West University
Dr Kim, Kwang-Su
Institute of African Studies (IAS), Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS), South Korea
Cover image: Alcázar Palace, Seville: the Salón de Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors). Watercolour, attributed to E.S., ninetheenth century. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain
Published June 8, 2022
  • Precolonial Africa, historiography, Bahurutshe, ethnology, archaeology, multidisciplinary research
How to Cite
Du Pisani, J. A., & Kim, K.-S. (2022). Precolonial African Historiography as a multidisciplinary project. Cromohs - Cyber Review of Modern Historiography, 24, 42 - 65. https://doi.org/10.36253/cromohs-13366


In this historiographical article we analyse the three sources from which historians obtain their material for the research of the Bahurutshe (a subgroup of the Sotho-Tswana of South Africa) in the precolonial era: oral tradition, archaeological studies of Iron Age sites, and the oldest written accounts by European visitors to the Marico. We show that because the Batswana were non-literate societies before the nineteenth century, the study of their early history is a multidisciplinary project requiring the inputs of anthropologists, archaeologists and linguists. To produce a cohesive narrative of African precolonial history is an arduous task, but the history of precolonial African societies has major significance in the bigger picture of the (South) African past and informs ongoing discourses about the history of the region. We argue that Hurutshe history fits into the broader pattern of South African history and has relevance for the understanding of current debates around controversial issues such as ethnicity and land claims.