Sol Plaatje – A life of Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje 1876–1932

It takes a historian who was invested many years in research to write a biography as detailed as this one. Willan relates Plaatje’s story with such amazing skill that this biography is a pleasure to read. It is as detailed as it is beautifully written in accessible language. – Sabata-mpho Mokae

Celebrating one of South Africa’s most accomplished political and literary figures 

Today Sol Plaatje is celebrated as one of South Africa’s most accomplished political and literary figures. He was a pioneer in the history of the black press, editor of several newspapers, one of the founders of the African National Congress in 1912, led its campaign against the notorious Natives Land Act of 1913 and twice travelled overseas to represent the interests of his people. He wrote a number of books, including – in English – Native Life in South Africa (1916), a powerful denunciation of the Land Act and the policies that led to it, and a pioneering novel, Mhudi (1930). Years after his death his diary of the siege of Mafeking was retrieved and published, providing a unique view of one of the best known episodes of the South African War of 1899– 1902. 

Sol Plaatje: A life of Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje 1876–1932 tells the story of Plaatje’s remarkable life, setting it in the context of the changes that overtook South Africa during his lifetime and the huge obstacles he had to overcome. It draws upon extensive new research in archives in southern Africa, Europe and the US, as well as an expanding scholarship on Plaatje and his writings. 

This is a commanding – and important – biography of Sol Plaatje with a clear purpose, to bring to light a story of how this very remarkable South African figure understood himself and to illuminate the ideas and beliefs that sustained him. A blockbuster of humane historical writing and a monumental research achievement. – Bill Nasson

Brian Willan sheds new light not only on Plaatje’s struggles and achievements but upon his personal life and his relationships with his wife and family, friends and supporters. It pays special attention to his formative years, looking to his roots in chiefly societies, his education and upbringing on a German-run mission and his exposure to the legal and political ideas of the nineteenth-century Cape Colony as key factors in inspiring and sustaining a life of more or less ceaseless endeavour.


Brian Willan has a doctorate from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University and is currently an Honorary Research Associate at the Institute for the Study of English in Africa, Rhodes University. He has written extensively on Sol Plaatje and other aspects of nineteenth and twentieth-century South African history, his most recent book being Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present, co-edited with Janet Remmington and Bheki Peterson (Wits University Press, 2016).

ISBN 978-1-4314-2644-7 
GENRE Biography/History 
FORMAT Trade Paperback 
SIZE 235x155mm 
RIGHTS World Rights 
RELEASE June 2018