An analysis of the depiction of "big men" in apartheid and post-apartheid school history textbooks.
Male historical figures or “big men” as I refer to them in this study have appeared in South African history textbooks since their inception. I learnt about these “big men” when I studied history at school and thereafter when I began teaching history at school. I taught history in both the apartheid and post-apartheid eras and used the textbooks from both. I was therefore curious to discover whether the new democratic dispensation and the associated curricula had an impact on the depiction of “big men” in contemporary history textbooks in South Africa. Since I am an educator who uses history textbooks in my teaching, I wanted to research this topic and therefore contribute to the discourse on the portrayal of “big men” in history textbooks. Hence I analysed the depiction of “big men” in selected South African history textbooks of the apartheid and post-apartheid eras for this dissertation. . This study is informed by the interpretivist paradigm as the aim of the study was to reach some understanding of how “big men” were portrayed in history textbooks of both political eras and why they were portrayed in such a manner. The research approach is qualitative in nature and I employed qualitative textual analysis as the research methodology. Content analysis and open-coding were used as the data analysis methods for the study. The sample constituted eight selected primary and secondary school history textbooks from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras. Connell’s theory of masculinity was employed to justify that the “big men” who appear in the textbooks embody the ideals and practices of the hegemonic man. The study revealed that “big men” and their characteristics have in some ways evolved but in others stayed the same since apartheid to the post-apartheid era history textbooks. Although different narratives have been constructed about “big men” in history textbooks of both political eras in South Africa, the reality is that “big men” are still present in the history textbooks. These “big men” are still attributed with “enduring” characteristics which transcend from the apartheid to post-apartheid history textbooks. Based on the findings although this cannot be generalised to all school history textbooks, this study has concluded that patriarchy although challenged after 1994, is still entrenched in history textbooks and consequently history teaching and learning in South Africa.