Peasants, historians, and gender: A south african case study revisited,1850–1886

History and Theory 39 (4):86–110 (2000)
A gender revolution allegedly occurred in the British Cape Colony in the nineteenth century. African patriarchs, traditionally pastoralists, took over women's agricultural work, adopted Victorian gender attributes, and became prosperous peasants . Scholars have accepted the plausibility of these seismic shifts in masculinity, postulated in Colin Bundy's classic, The Rise & Fall of the South African Peasantry. I re-examine them, for Bundy's "Case Study" of Herschel, acclaimed as one of the regions that best fits his thesis. This Case Study omits women, who were the typical peasant producers. It marginalizes men failing to conform to bourgeois Victorian gender norms. It misrepresents class formation, causation, periodization, and peasant well-being. It misdates proletarianization by at least three decades. The zenith of commodity production is misdated by at least half a century. A labor reservoir characterized by severe subsistence problems is represented as a prosperous peasantry. Bundy postulates that patriarchs "rose" into women's work and colonial masculine scripts in response to favorable conditions; I argue instead that younger men "fell" into these domains in response to disasters. A silent gender bias-towards black Englishmen, against African women-had a marked impact on Bundy's analysis of class formation. The purpose of this article is to interrogate this silence and to show how it has warped a classic text
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DOI 10.1111/0018-2656.00147
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