The Island: A History of Robben Island, 1488-1990 (Mayibuye history and literature series)
Robben Island is a low-lying outcrop of rock and sand guarding the entrance to South Africa’s Table Bay. Although it is just a few kilometres long and a barely swimmable distance from Cape Town, it may well be the most significant historical site in South Africa today. Paradoxically it symbolises both the repressiveness of the apartheid state and the strength of those who opposed it. While interpretations of the island’s history have focused mainly on its role as political prison and on the well-known prisoners held there, such as Nelson Mandela, the island has been put to many and varied uses over the last 500 years: as pantry, hospital, mental asylum, military camp as well as prison. In spite of these various roles there are continuities in its history. Above all, the island has served mainly as repository for those who were considered dangerous to the South African social order. A history of the island provides therefore an off-shore echo of the history of the mainland.
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