418pp., map, paperback, First SA Edition, Johannesburg, 2022
First published in the USA in 2022.
“Just when some were starting to think that there was nothing new to say about Nelson Mandela, Paul Landau comes along to show us just how much there is still to say about one of the most consequential figures of the twentieth century. Landau chooses violence, that most discomfiting subject for those content to pretend that Mandela never picked up a gun, to show us how much we still have to learn about Mandela and his colleagues. As Landau points out, commentators tend to treat South Africa’s turn to armed struggle in December 1961 as an act of desperation, an unfortunate, embarrassing decision by a group of well-meaning but reluctant revolutionaries. Landau successfully challenges that glib treatment in this superb and magisterial account of the history of revolutionary violence in South Africa ... As Landau shows so well in this tour de force of a book, Mandela and his comrades did not choose violence in a void; they were looking at developments in other parts of the world, from Latin America and North Africa to Asia. For those ... who want to appreciate Mandela in the fullness of his life and of the choices he made with that complex and remarkable life, this humdinger of a book will help them see Mandela in a new and more illuminating light.” Jacob Dlamini, author of Safari Nation: A social history of the Kruger National Park and Askari: A story of collaboration and betrayal in the anti-apartheid struggle
“Spear: Mandela and the Revolutionaries is one of the most important books on South Africa to appear in more than a generation. A masterpiece of analysis and careful historical reconstruction, Landau revisits a crucial moment in the country’s modern history, when a group of activists turned revolutionaries led by Nelson Mandela pursued the overthrow of the racist apartheid state. Concentrating on the early 1960s at the very moment South Africa was becoming an authoritarian order, Landau brilliantly reconstructs the world within which Mandela and others around him committed themselves to revolutionary violence - what they read, the debates that unfolded and, crucially, how they understood South Africa in the wider world. Based on unparalleled research, including an extraordinary array of interviews, Spear takes on a range of controversial subjects: the decision to use violence, the fractious struggles within the ANC’s leadership, and Nelson Mandela himself ... no one will be able to look at the early 1960s the way they used to, as well as the ANC’s three decade-old grip on South Africa.." Clifton Crais, author of Poverty, War, and Violence in South Africa
“This retelling of the story of Nelson Mandela’s armed rebellion between 1960 and 1964 is a fresh and exciting reinterpretation of a narrative that too often is told with the distorting effects of hindsight. Paul Landau has drawn upon conversations with a literal army of informed participants, 250 people from the movement that Mandela helped to make, its commanders, its foot-soldiers, and its camp-followers. He has also reread and reinterpreted the compendious archival record. Emerging from this research is a very different Mandela from the kindly patriarch who wrote his memoirs thirty years after these events: radical, tough-minded, and calculating. This is the story of what Nelson Mandela at the time of the rebellion was seeking to achieve, what he was thinking, and what he actually did, day by day. Most importantly, Landau offers new and persuasive explanations for the considerations that shaped Mandela’s decision-making. Spear is an astonishing breakthrough achievement.” Tom Lodge, University of Limerick, author of Red Road to Freedom, a history of the South African Communist Party, 1921-2021 and Sharpeville: An apartheid massacre and its consequences
Paul Landau is Professor of History at the University of Maryland at College Park and a fellow of the History Centre of the University of Johannesburg. He is the author of The Realm of the Word: Language, gender, and Christianity in a Southern African Kingdom (1995) and Popular Politics in the History of South Africa, 1400–1948 (2010). He lives in Washington, DC.