Original Articles

Monica Wilson (1908–1982) and social change

Published in: Anthropology Southern Africa
Volume 29, issue 1-2, 2006 , pages: 1–7
DOI: 10.1080/23323256.2006.11499925
Author(s): David BrokenshaDepartment of Social Anthropology,


Monica Wilson's writings contain a wealth of material on social change, on how institutions and groups and values change. Based on extensive fieldwork among the Pondo of the Eastern Cape and the Nyakyusa of Tanzania, her ethnographies and many articles are illuminating for many topics, including scale of change, the changing status of women, effects of Christianity, growing inequality and the ‘interpreters’. Unusual for her period, Monica Wilson examined all aspects of society, including missions, trade, schools, migrant labour and, especially, the results of European domination. She was a keen student of history, editing The Oxford History of South Africa Her first monograph, Reaction to Conquest, has been described as ‘a precocious masterpiece’, and is still relevant today, seventy years after its publication. This book analyses change not only in rural Pondo society, but also in the towns, and among ‘Africans on European farms’—even today a neglected field of enquiry. Monica Wilson's rich legacy still has lessons for today.

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