The Historical Journal

Research Article

AFRICAN LOYALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS: THE ROYAL TOUR OF SOUTH AFRICA, 1947*

HILARY SAPIREa1 c1

a1 Birkbeck College, University of London

ABSTRACT

This article explores the late flowering of ‘black loyalism’ during the visit of the British royal family to Southern Africa in the summer of 1947. Whereas most accounts of post-war African politics emphasize the radicalization of political organizations, the growth of nationalism, and grassroots insurgency, this account of African engagement with the royal tour indicates that professed faith in the British monarchy as the embodiment and guardian of the rights and liberties of all peoples living under the crown was more widespread and longer lived than is generally assumed. However evanescent the phenomenon, extensive participation in the ceremonial rituals associated with the tour and the outpouring of expressions of black loyalism underlines the fluidity and unpredictability of black politics in this decade. At such a highly charged moment internationally, with India on the cusp of independence, and political turmoil at home, there was reason to hope that the loyalty of Africans during the Second World War might just be rewarded by the extension of political rights. This article traces the complex legacies and contested expressions of ‘black loyalism’ in what was effectively its swansong.

(Online publication January 31 2011)

Correspondence:

c1 Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HX h.sapire@bbk.ac.uk

* I would like to express my gratitude to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll for her gracious permission to quote from the Royal Archives (RA) Windsor. I acknowledge the invaluable suggestions of Jeremy Krikler, Saul Dubow, Annie Coombes, Bob Edgar, David Feldman, Vivian Bickford-Smith, Albert Grundlingh, Ben Carton, Debbie Gaitskell, Peter Limb, Marianne Elliott, Paul la Hausse, John Lambert, Neil Parsons, Philip Buckner, and the research assistance of Alida Green and Zabeth Botha. This research was supported by a research fellowship grant from the Leverhulme Trust.