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The Dead Will Arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa Cattle-Killing Movement of 1856-7 (Anglais) Broché – 1 septembre 1989

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Book by Peires J B

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3.0 étoiles sur 5 Dichotomous 9 octobre 2015
Par fastidious one - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
The author J.B Peires was a Senior Lecturer in History at Rhodes University. He possessed a knack for turning historical data into stirring and rousing reading. This book proved to be a challenging read, taking me several years to research. There are indeed omissions, inconsistencies, conflicting versions and self-serving narratives.

The year of 1856 was a disparaging time for the amaXhosa (Bantu) nation migrations occupying the Wild Coast, just as it were for other Nguni as well as the Khoikhoi / Khoisan indigenous peoples. Xhosa land was now under siege by British invaders - scattering them under a process known as "mfecane" - eventually weakening Bantu societies - unable to resist colonial expansion resulting in continuous loss of their territories and autonomy - the birth of apartheid governance and systematic order of white rule. In 1853, a lung disease began killing off the Xhosa’s cattle herds. By 1856-1857, South Africa (as many places within the world) suffered droughts which withered food harvests, and in the case of the Xhosa, their prized cattle were dwindling because of this *strange* infectious disease further exacerbated by drought conditions.

AmaXhosa ambition seemed promising from the voice of a young girl called Nongqawuse, the niece of a prophet. Nongqawuse claimed ancestor spirits had prophetically counseled her during a visit in the Gxara River of an ancestral resurrection: "If the people would only kill all their cattle and burn their crops, a day would come when new cattle and crops would arise along with an army of the ancestors who would drive the whites into the sea."

The 16-17 year old Nongqawuse's supposed *vision* absorbed the precarious condition of her people, and split the Xhosa into two groups; believers of the prophesy and non-believers; while believers followed her oracles, slaughtering their cattle and burning their remaining summer crops. The alleged *dedicated day* arrived and nothing happened. Starvation and disease occurred within months - greater than a third of the amaXhosa nation died. In turn, the British easily claimed the remnants of the defeated Xhosa kingdom and imprisoned their chiefs. Nongqawuse was arrested near the Mbashe River and imprisoned on Robben Island - held under a different name for her own safety - she was the target of Xhosa death threats, but her people were broken and tattered as a result of the cattle-killing. By the 1870s, white settlers occupied most of the Xhosa’s lands. The surviving Xhosa were rounded up and moved to reserves in British Kaffraria. Nongqawuse eventually released and returned to the Eastern Cape. Intriguingly enough, the name "Nongqawuse" by implication means "a spiritual experience."
In 2012, I visited Johannesburg, South Africa for a six-month period. During this time, I learned about the "Xhosa Great Cattle-Killing" from a fairly prominent and accomplished South African (British) artist who captured a unique rendition of an ancestor speaking to Nongqawuse in his painting titled "The Message." The reality of his explanation, and ethnic "communication-centered" Drakensburg interpretation captivated my senses. I eagerly began to query many individuals over several months - to my dismay, I could only find one (black or colored) person with knowledge about Nongqawuse and the Xhosa cattle killing - or rather, who would admit to it. This person was a Xhosa man in his early thirties or so. He presented an imperviously lack-luster and sketchy account. Other Nguni persons; certain Sotho, Tswana, Tsonga-Shangaan, Ndebele, Zulu or Themba which I encountered daily displayed an innocuous ignorance or disinterest! A few individuals immediately passed it off as "just another white-lie." This provoked me (even more) to investigate via Internet and attempt to seek more information. My searching proved arduous and inconclusive in South Africa. Even respected friends and associates were not helpful, and (publically accessible) data about this subject seemed obscure and non-existent there, as if intentional. By the time I finally returned home, I was compelled and easily located various sources of information over the Internet and several written accounts.

Throughout the 1850s and beyond, it is indeed a fact that Sir George Grey and the Cape Colonists experienced strained relations with the indigenous people of South Africa.

(1). According to British interviews with Nongqawuse, the "risen ancestors" promised her that, if their requests be followed, more Xhosa ancestors would appear to provide food and 'drive the English out' of the country. The history of the cattle-killing has been explained as part of a Xhosa conspiracy to initiate war with the Cape Colony, the result of a trick by Sir George Grey to deceive the Xhosa into destroying themselves, along with a millenarian-movement driven by economic and political pressures. For Grey, his paramount objective was the implementation of his frontier policy of 'civilizing' the Xhosa, believing in 'separatist relations' whereby the British and Dutch should be "employer" and indigenous Africans as "employee."
(2). On the other hand, Xhosa historians such as Mqhayi and Imbongi Yesizwe believe as (Chief Bhotomane) that Xhosa oral history and close advisor's to the Paramount Chief Sarhili: "It is a theory still widely held today and has recently been conscripted to argue for moral redress and pecuniary recompense." In 1999, the Xhosa Royal Council accused the British of *direct complicity* in the Cattle-Killing, and formally requested Prince Charles make amends and apologize for the part played by Sir George Grey and the British Colonial administration. There are claims (on both sides) that it was the governor himself (Grey) who hid in the bushes and appeared, pretending as one of the ancestral messengers.
(3). Another explanation recently designated the *Cauldron of Witchcraft Interpretation* by Peires, identifies Xhosa superstition, whereas Xhosa (Bantu) beliefs are deemed false, irrational or considered "religious faith" as the origin of the Cattle-Killing.

Indeed, Europeans travelled thousands of miles to enslave Africans and others through-out the world, while laying siege and control of their lands. They were, after all, *civilized people*, and they were simply behaving like well-educated predators, bringing "progress" to people who were doing just fine without them, right?

The truth largely remains that the story of Nongqawuse served to reinforce "white" notions of "black" savagery and irrationality... Is it little wonder why South African "blacks and coloreds" demonstrate scant knowledge of these historical accounts? Yet, [as it were] a Xhosa young prophetess was accused of bringing destruction - equally miraculous and fitting - [perhaps] ancestral redemption 138 years later began again with an Eastern Cape Xhosa royal named Nelson Mandela - the first black President of the Republic of South Africa - after foreign "cultural imperialism" and apartheid rule.

So, could there be truth to Nongqawuse's prophesy?
Both Mandela and Nongqawuse share Eastern Cape Xhosa heritage; were anti-Colonial; imprisoned at Robin Island, wielded considerable influential assistance. Once released, Mandela was groomed and accredited for initiating a process of "resurrection" from a long anti-apartheid journey.... Perhaps in order to fulfill such an "anti-Machiavellian" prophesy...
3 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 fascinating 25 juillet 2013
Par Rhodri St. David - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
This book holds on particular strength: it's the only one of its kind. This is an authoritative account of a fascinating event in the history of South Africa. When a yound prophetess named Nonqawuse instructed her people, the powerful Xhosa of South Africa, to slaughter their cattle, let their fields go unplanted, and await the rising of their dead loved ones, the people responded en masse in an event that furthered the decline of the Xhosa and the expansion of British rule in South Africa.

This bizarre story, unknown to me previously, is explained thoroughly by Peires. He explains the antecedents, putting the cattle-killing into context. Rather than passing judgement on the Xhosa, or the British, as is so often the case, Peires gives an even-handed account and corrects the myths that have sprung up from both sides.

Very well written account of an event so far-fetched it must be history.
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A Moving Account of a Tragic Event 11 août 2014
Par S. Smith - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
This interesting book by Jeff Peires has three distinct parts. Peires has a significant track-record as an historian of the Xhosa people both through collecting oral traditions and by studying archive sources. Overall, it is well researched and highly readable, it contains a number of thought-provoking views and it has several useful maps and illustrations. However, its three elements are rather different

The first combines a clear and fascinating narrative of the events leading up to the Great Xhosa Cattle-Killing, and of the tragic event itself with an explanation based on the reaction of the Xhosa people to wholly unprecedented pressure from alien political and military forces and introduced cattle disease. In this analysis, the Great Cattle-Killing was an act of resistance rather than suicidal folly. Peires first describes the impact of the earlier British attacks on the Xhosa people in the 1830s and the religious practices for fighting contamination it caused. He then describes the combined effects of cattle and crop diseases and presents these and religious changes including Christian influences as the context to Nongqawuse and her prophecies which led to the Great Cattle-Killing. Finally, in this part he describes the course of the Cattle-Killing, the reactions of believers and non-believers to the prophecies and the effects of the Cattle-Killing. This element can only be described as excellent.

Peires' second theme is the advantage Sir George Grey took of the aftermath of the Cattle-Killing to subjugate those of the Xhosa not already under colonial rule. Peires first sketches Grey's background as a colonial administrator and emphasises his personal arrogance and his lack of scruples and harshness in other colonial postings. His reported actions in South Africa are very disturbing, and he is presented as the villain of the piece, attacking the Xhosa when he should have helped them, allowing many to starve and creating a web of deceit in his official reports to hide his wrong-doing. This presentation is clearly justified, and Peires has done it to debunk the image of Grey as a wise statesman that had been presented up to then. Unfortunately, Peires makes Grey and his subordinates evil monsters without redeeming features. It is not at all surprising that they were, in the mid 19th century, racists and imperialists, and to judge them solely by late-20th century standards creates some distortion. In his other works also, Peires presents British administrators in South Africa in an unrelievedly bad light, and he may have lost objectivity through his sympathy with the Xhosa.

The final section is Peires' Afterword. An earlier edition of this book drew criticism from other historians, and this is his response. It does him little credit, as much of his response looks more like personal attacks than reasoned answers. I accept that history in South Africa is politically sensitive, but when Peires presented a revisionist interpretation, however justified, he should have expected and accepted a range of criticism.

Even with its minor flaws, this is a fine book.
0 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Black, White, and Grey 7 mai 2014
Par Shadeburst - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Tagline: When the Xhosa nation follows the prophecies of a disturbed teenager and destroys all its food resources, the English overlords pounce mercilessly on the greatly weakened survivors.

In 1856 the prophetess Nongqawuse ordered the Xhosa nation to kill all their cattle, to destroy all their corn, and to cease crop cultivation. Once they had proven their belief, their dead ancestors would arise, corn pits would miraculously be filled and new herds of cattle would appear from below the ground.

Obviously this is totally ridiculous and only a nation of idiots could have taken the prophecies seriously.

Or is it really so ridiculous?

Fast-forward a hundred and fifty six years. In a close parallel to the Cattle-killing, the best-educated and technologically most advanced nations meet in Doha to combat climate change. The Pew Institute conducts a survey showing that 84 per cent of the world population believes in a supreme being. The country regarded as the leader of the free world holds an election for president with two candidates both of whom have convincingly demonstrated their utter lack of fitness to govern.

So let's give the Xhosa people a break. It looks like gullibility is the norm among humans and the more sophisticated, the easier we are to fool.

On pp 390-391 of the 2003 Jonathan Ball edition, in the last few hundred words of the text, Jeff Peires freely admits that he approached the writing of this book with a strong racist bias.

But you don't need to read that far to appreciate that one of the author's guiding principles was under no circumstances to publish a single word that might conceivably offend a Xhosa-first-language reader. Basically we're talking serious analingus here.

Now we may ask ourselves whether this bias is fatal to the book and the answer has to be: No it is not. "Arise" is the definitive work on the subject and most unlikely ever to be matched let alone surpassed.

I'm no fan of the scholarly tome and opened this book with some trepidation. But instead of having to force it down at a disciplined pace of ten pages a night, I found myself devouring the text in a couple of days. Jeff Peires writes in an informal, easy-to-read style. His lectures at Rhodes University must have been a delight to attend. If this means that academic standards of objectivity had to be abandoned, then so be it.

His bias is so obvious, so omnipresent and so persistent, that the reader soon learns to discount it. We may even come to suspect the author of exaggeration, distortion, and outright lies. And that is the major flaw of this book. We could dismiss it as unreliable. We could decide that Grey, Maclean, Gawler et al were a lot less evil than Jeff Peires wants us to think. We could decide that Sarhili, Phatho, Mhala et al were a lot more evil than the innocent, naïve, well-intentioned, easily-fooled yokels so patronisingly depicted by Jeff Peires. Maybe the white players in this drama weren't all sinners, and all the blacks weren't saints.

The Xhosa Cattle-Killing is a national tragedy. Jeff Peires's inappropriate treatment makes it possible for prejudiced readers to laugh it off. Many parts of the book I found extremely distressing to read. Distress and anger are the right emotions to feel on reading about such monstrous, brutal and callous deeds. But they are not the right emotions to feel when you are writing about them, or your writing becomes rabid ranting.

Because I am a sceptics' sceptic I am well-trained at detecting leaky logic and inadequate proof. The evidence given against Grey in the book is long on opinion and short on fact. I was forced to spend many hours trying to research the references. Few of them are available on the internet. Nevertheless I conclude that Jeff Peires is right to condemn Grey as a homicidal maniac. This book has been an eye-opener for me. It has dispelled my ignorance and formed new opinions. Peires may be right, but I find it hard to respect him when he is guilty of such shameless intellectual dishonesty.

On a technical note, the maps accompanying the text (drawn by one WO West) are almost valueless. In spite of the ten years it took to prepare the book, the material is badly organised with duplications, multiple repetitions, and several forward references. It lacks academic rigour. Whoever edited the text for Jonathan Ball must have spent a good ten minutes readying it for publication, although today to find an editor prepared to stand up against a well-known author is admittedly a rare event.

A must-read for all South Africans, black and white.
1 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Dead shall Arise - one of my prized books ! 1 novembre 2012
Par B. W. Fargher - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Prof Jeff Peires produced a masterpiece of research on one of the more important events in South African Eastern Cape history. Together with Sunburn Queen by Crampton and Frontiers by Mostert, one has a collection of the best of Eastern Cape historical research, all very readable.
The Dead Will Arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa Cattle-Killing Movement of 1856-7
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