Cape Town at War: The City, Lived Experiences and Loyalties, 1914-1919


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


International Studies Group


This book explores ways in which the First World War affected Cape Town, addressing the absence of research on urban histories in South Africa and non-European urban histories of the war. By drawing on a variety of sources - government archives, organisational records, private papers, oral testimony and visual and print media - it demonstrates the infrastructural, economic and social consequences of the war on the city. The war is shown to be an integral period for understanding the way in which Capetonians identified and related to each other. Opinions about loyalism, Britishness and ideas about deserving citizenship shifted in response to wartime circumstances. Infrastructural challenges - including water and housing shortages, poor sanitation and wartime inflation - fed into how Cape Town was perceived: 'sin city,' 'slum city,' 'destination city.' These discourses informed debates and policies around health, segregation and who 'belonged' in the South African city.