Lucien Van Der Walt

Labor History Prize winner

The journal Labor History has awarded Lucien Van Der Walt of Wits Sociology its international prize for the best Ph.D. dissertation of 2007 for his thesis on 'Anarchism and Syndicalism in South Africa,1904-1921: rethinking the history of labour and the left'. Labor History, published by Routledge, is widely considered the pre-eminent journal for historical scholarship in its field in the world. The highly prestigious and competitive prize is awarded for the best Ph.D. on a labour topic, historical or contemporary, regardless of discipline, and draws entrants worldwide. It is awarded for the significance, originality, and quality of research, the sophistication of methodology, the clarity of presentation and cogency of arguments, and the contribution to the field of labour studies.

Van der Walt was supervised by Professor Jonathan Hyslop of the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER). Hyslop says "Van der Walt's thesis is a remarkable feat of scholarship which effectively challenges much of the received wisdom in South African labour history. The award of this prize is richly deserved international recognition for truly original work". The thesis looked at the influence of anarchism and syndicalism on left, labour and nationalist movements in southern Africa from the 1890s into the 1920s. Internationally, this was a period of widespread anarchist and syndicalist influence: van der Walt showed that, contrary to conventional wisdom and partisan accounts, these currents had a pervasive influence locally as well. This radical tradition worked across the colour line, and across borders; it pioneered socialism and labour unionism amongst people of colour; sceptical of both African and Afrikaner nationalism, it aimed at a universal human community based on internationalism, self-management and libertarian socialism.

Bert AltenaErasmus Universiteit Amsterdam