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Dr Hilary Sapire

Contact details

Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
Birkbeck, University of London
Room 316
27 Russell Square

Tel: 020 7631 6261

Online Office Hour Contact:


  • I grew up in South Africa and studied at the universities of Cape Town and the Witwatersrand. I have been teaching at Birkbeck College since 1991, following a post-doctoral fellowship at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London. I am a past editor of the Journal of Southern African Studies and member of its Editorial Board.

Research Interests

  • Having published articles on African urbanization, the making of the apartheid city and the political cultures of South African townships, I co-wrote a book on the tragic encounter between an isiXhosa African prophet, Nontetha Nwenkwe and the psychiatric profession in South Africa during the interwar years. I have co-edited a book and journal special issue on the history of Southern African liberation movements and the global anti-apartheid movement. Drawing on Leverhulme Trust funded-research, I am currently completing a book on royal tours of Southern Africa, popular monarchism and the ambiguities of empire loyalism, and I am collaborating on a book project with Dr Cindy McCreery of University of Sydney, on ‘Violence, honour and memory in the colonial Cape and Natal: Prince Alfred’s tour of 1860’. The courses I offer in the Department reflect my interests in African history, global history; colonial and post-colonial history’ and modern South Africa


  • Undergraduate:
  • Britannia’s Embrace: The British Empire and the World
  • Colonial Encounters: Race, Identity and Cultural Exchange in the British Empire
  • The Colonial Gaze – Western Perceptions of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 1600-1960
  • Empires in Comparative Perspective
  • Postgraduate:
  • Disease and Society in Africa in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
  • Africa in the European Imagination
  • Apartheid: Culture Politics and Society

PhD supervision

  • I have supervised doctoral students working on: Black British engagement with the Anti-Apartheid Movement; sport and the Edwardian Empire; liberal opposition politics in apartheid South Africa; Umkhonto we Size; the history of the University of Ibadan; gender and international solidarity with the anti-apartheid movement; and nineteenth-century Cape history. I am currently supervising dissertations on Protestant missionaries in South Asia and West Africa, and on the South African War.

Selected Publications

  • Articles and book chapters
  • ‘Rebuffing Royals?: Afrikaners and the Royal Tour of South Africa, 1947’ Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, forthcoming, 2018 (co-authored with A.M. Grundlingh) published online 22 February, print copy forthcoming 2018.
  • ‘The Prince and the Afrikaners: The Royal Visit to South Africa, 1925’, Royal Studies Journal, 5.1, June 2018 (forthcoming)
  • ‘The 1947 Royal Tour in Smuts’ Raj: South African Indian Responses’ in R. Aldrich and C. McCreery (eds.), Royals on Tour. Politics, Pageantry and Colonialism (Manchester University Press, 2018)
  • ‘”We Have Seen the Son of Heaven, We Have Seen the Son of our Queen: Prince Alfred’s Encounters with Africans on his tour 1860’ in Maria Nugent and Sarah Carter (eds.), Mistress of Everything: Queen Victoria and Indigenous History, Politics and Imagination. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015)
  • ‘Township Histories, Insurrection and Liberation in Late Apartheid South Africa Article’ in South African Historical Journal, 65, 2 · June 2013
  • ‘Southern African Liberation Struggles: New Local, Regional and Global Perspectives: Introduction’ in H. Sapire and C. Saunders (eds), Southern African Liberation Struggles: New Local, Regional and Global Perspectives (University of Cape Town Press, Cape Town, 2012)
  • ‘Ambiguities of Loyalism: The Prince of Wales in India and Africa 1921 and 1925’ History Workshop Journal 73, Spring 2012
  • African Loyalism and its Discontents: The Royal Tour of South Africa 1947’ The Historical Journal, 54, 1 2011
  • ‘Liberation Movements, Exile and International Solidarity: an Introduction’ in Special Issue on Liberation Struggles, Exile and International Solidarity’ Journal of Southern African Studies eds W. Dooling and H. Sapire 35, 3, 2009
  • ‘Engendering Segregation: “Black Women’s Work” in the Urban South and South Africa in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries’ in South African Historical Journal, 43, 1, 2000
  • ‘Dry Bones: The Return of Nontetha, an Eastern Cape Prophet’ in South African Historical Journal 40 May (1999) (co-authored with R. Edgar)
  • ‘Apartheid’s “Testing Ground”: Urban “Native Policy” and African Politics in Brakpan South Africa 1943 – 1948’, Journal of African History 35, 1994
  • ‘Politics and Protest in Shack Settlements of the Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging Region 1980 – 1990’ Special Issue on Political Violence in Southern Africa Journal of Southern African Studies (eds T. Ranger and W. Beinart) 18, 3, 1992
  • Books
  • Southern African Liberation Struggles: New Local, Regional and Global Perspectives (University of Cape Town Press, Cape Town, 2012) (with C. Saunders)
  • African Apocalypse: The Story of Nontetha Nkwenkwe, a Twentieth Century South African Prophet (Ohio University Press, 1999) (with R. Edgar)
  • Edited Works
  • ‘South Africa on Film’ – part special issue, Journal of Southern African Studies, 39, 3, 2013.
  • Special Issue on Liberation Struggles, Exile and International Solidarity, Journal of Southern African Studies 35, 3, 2009 (with W. Dooling)
  • Beyond White Supremacy: Towards a New Agenda for the Comparative Histories of South Africa and the United States (London, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, 1997) (with P. Alexander, R. Halpern and S. Marks)
  • Special Issue on Urban Studies and Urban Change, Journal of Southern African Studies 21, March 1995 (with J. Beall)
  • Other
  • ‘Nontetha Nkwenkwe (c. 1875–1935)’ in Emmanuel. K. Akyeampong and Henry Louis Gates, Jr (eds), Dictionary of Africa Biography (Oxford University Press, 2012)
  • Media
  • ‘The Royal House of Windsor’ (Channel 4) : Episode 2, talking head, advisor (2017)