This article discusses the problems inherent in writing a short historical survey of South Africa. Such surveys are periodically necessary in order to provide a perspective for monographic studies. This one is organized around the argument that South Africa, for all its internal divisions, has become a single country, and traces the processes of colonial conquest, economic integration and the ideological importance of mission Christianity through which this has come about. Furthermore, the recent changes in the South African governmental system provide a narrative conclusion that was not there in the past and which soon will be no more.
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