Bill Freund

An Historian’s Passage to Africa
Author(s):
  • Publication Date: May 2021
  • Dimensions and Pages: 234 x 156 mm; Number of figures (B&W): 47 Extent: 288 pp
  • Paperback EAN: 978-1-77614-672-7
  • eBook EAN: 978-1-77614-675-8
  • PDF EAN: 978-1-77614-674-1
  • Rights: World
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): 385.00
  • Recommended Price (USD): 30.00

This is the story of an examined life. Bill Freund tells us how Africa became the focus of interest
of a smart Jewish kid from Chicago, about the obstacles the American academic establishment
threw in his way, of his own evolving thinking about African politics, race, Marxism, and the
role of the intellectual in society, and how he finally found a place for himself in university life
and left politics in South Africa on the eve of apartheid’s collapse. He has written an insightful
and often moving account of the life of the mind in a time of political conflict.
— Fred Cooper, Professor Emeritus at New York University and the author of Africa since 1940: The Past of the Present

A beautifully told memoir that combines Bill Freund’s love for travel with the curiosity of the
historian. Freund’s astutely-observed commentary on the societies in which he lived, his wry
and yet empathetic accounts of people caught in the midst of the large political and economic
movements of the twentieth century, and his unerring eye for the quirky and familiar make
this an enthralling read.
Shireen Hassim, Canada 150 Research Chair in Gender and African Politics, Visiting Professor at WiSER, University of the Witwatersrand and the author of Fatima Meer: Voices of Liberation

This is an extraordinarily honest and insightful memoir of the making of a worldly and
theoretically savvy historian of South Africa. Bill Freund writes eloquently about his
unconventional, and intriguing, personal and academic journey from Chicago to England,
Nigeria and South Africa.
— Steven Robins, Professor, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Stellenbosch University and the author of Letters of Stone: From Nazi Germany to South Africa

Bill Freund, the late social historian and leading analyst of African history, passed away in 2020 soon after finishing his autobiography. Often described as the academy’s ‘outsider insider’, he was an eminent South African historian who published prodigiously in the areas of labour, capital and economic history. What influenced this American-educated academic to become such an astute and trusted observer of the political economy in Africa?

In this deeply introspective autobiography, we follow Bill’s intellectual journey from a modest Jewish home in Chicago in the 1950s – where new vistas were opened up through voracious reading, inspiring teachers and intellectual engagement – to the Universities of Chicago, Yale, Ahmadu Bello, Dar es Salaam and Harvard, and finally to a permanent teaching position at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa in 1985. Freund begins with his family’s fascinating history in Habsburg Austria, describes émigré life in the USA, and provides astute reflections on his teaching experiences. Peppered in between the commentaries on academic life are stories of his travels, poems he wrote for loved ones, and endearing anecdotes of friendships that shaped his life.

Freund offers rich insights into the world of Africanists and their scholarship on different continents, as well as thoughtful and balanced observations on late- and post-apartheid South Africa. His autobiography reveals the intellectual man and the world that shaped him – and which he in turn influenced through a deep commitment to rigorous scholarship. It includes a select bibliography of his many publications as well as a foreword by Robert Morrell on the making of this book.

Foreword: Bill Freund and the Making of His Autobiography, by Robert Morrell
A Brief Introduction
Bill Freund’s Family Tree
Chapter 1 The Austrian Past
Chapter 2 The Aftermath of War: A Perilous Modernity
Chapter 3 The Dark Years
Chapter 4 A New Life in America
Chapter 5 Adolescence: First Bridge to a Wider World
Chapter 6 As a Student: Chicago and Yale
Chapter 7 As a Student: Africa and England
Chapter 8 The Tough Years Begin
Chapter 9 An Intellectual and an African: Nigeria
Chapter 10 An Intellectual and an African: Dar es Salaam and Harvard
Chapter 11 South Africa, My Home
Notes
Select Bibliography of Bill Freund’s Publications
List of Illustrations
Author’s Acknowledgements
Supplementary Acknowledgements
Index

William (Bill) Freund (1944-2020) was professor of economic history at the
University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He is the author of a number of books,
including Twentieth Century South Africa: A Developmental History (2019), The
African City: A History (2007) and The Making of Contemporary Africa since the
1800s (1984).

This is the story of an examined life. Bill Freund tells us how Africa became the focus of interest of a smart Jewish kid from Chicago, about the obstacles the American academic establishment threw in his way, of his own evolving thinking about African politics, race, Marxism, and the role of the intellectual in society, and how he finally found a place for himself in university life and left politics in South Africa on the eve of apartheid’s collapse. He has written an insightful and often moving account of the life of the mind in a time of political conflict.
— Fred Cooper, Professor Emeritus at New York University and the author of Africa since 1940: The Past of the Present

A beautifully told memoir that combines Bill Freund’s love for travel with the curiosity of the historian. Freund’s astutely-observed commentary on the societies in which he lived, his wry and yet empathetic accounts of people caught in the midst of the large political and economic movements of the twentieth century, and his unerring eye for the quirky and familiar make this an enthralling read.
Shireen Hassim, Canada 150 Research Chair in Gender and African Politics, Visiting Professor at WiSER, University of the Witwatersrand and the author of Fatima Meer: Voices of Liberation

This is an extraordinarily honest and insightful memoir of the making of a worldly and
theoretically savvy historian of South Africa. Bill Freund writes eloquently about his
unconventional, and intriguing, personal and academic journey from Chicago to England,
Nigeria and South Africa.
— Steven Robins, Professor, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Stellenbosch University and the author of Letters of Stone: From Nazi Germany to South Africa

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