MASKED RAIDERS, Irish banditry in southern Africa 1880-1899

: van Onselen (C.)

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254 pp., maps, illus., paperback, Cape Town, (2010) 2020


Award-winning social historian Charles van Onselen tells the story of the criminal "Irish Brigade", a group of soldiers based at Fort Napier in Pietermaritzburg in the late nineteenth century, who deserted and embarked on a spree of bank, safe and highway robberies.

"Van Onselen's gripping tale is as audacious as its subjects. At one level this is a fast-moving story of a group of hybrid Irish bandits rampaging through the social and economic landscape of the early years of South Africa's industrial revolution and moving between continents when the going gets tough. But it's more subversive than that. In between the bank robberies, the defiant prison escapes and the cat-and-mouse games with the political authorities, Van Onselen presents a radical reinterpretation of the mineral revolution, of the Jameson Raid, of South African and Irish nationalisms, and much more besides." Megan Vaughan, University of Cambridge

"Readers of Charles van Onselen's earlier work will not be disappointed: resonant prose and pacey narrative belie tight organisation and arresting analysis. As ever, there's a bellicose moral intelligence driving the argument. Van Onselen's flawed protagonists are truly charismatic adversaries of global injustice." Tom Lodge, University of Limerick

Charles van Onselen is the author of "New Babylon", "New Nineveh", "The Seed is Mine" and "The Fox and the Flies". He is currently Research Professor in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Pretoria.