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Africa and the Cold War - Term 2 Week 5

Defending white minority rule

The armed liberation movements of southern Africa were faced by a resolute but increasingly isolated set of enemies. As recent archival research has shown, the ‘unholy alliance’ between Portugal, Rhodesia, and South Africa went beyond mere rhetoric. Led by Pretoria, they coordinated a defence strategy against the liberation movements. In this seminar, we will think about how the responses of white minority regimes intersected with the broader dynamics of the Cold War. The pages from Westad set the scene. De Meneses and McNamara explore the institutional arrangements between the white minority states – Operation ALCORA. Finally, compare and contrast the two articles by Miller, who seeks to reapproach the history of apartheid South Africa by reintegrating it into the story of the continent.


1. What impact did the fall of Portugal’s African empire have upon the Cold War in southern Africa?

2. Why was support of White Rhodesia so important to South Africa from 1965 until 1980?

Class readings

*Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 218-27.

Filipe Ribeiro de Meneses and Robert McNamara, ‘The Last Throw of the Dice: Portugal, Rhodesia, and South Africa, 1970-4’, Portuguese Studies, 28 (2012), 201-15.

Jamie Miller, ‘Things Fall Apart: South Africa and the Collapse of the Portuguese Empire, 1973-74’, Cold War History, 12 (2012), 183-204.

Jamie Miller, ‘Africanising Apartheid: Identity, Ideology, and State-Building in Post-Independence Africa’, Journal of African History, 56 (2015), 449-70.

General readings

John P. Cann and José Manuel Correia, 'An Unlikely Alliance: Portuguese and South African Airpower in Angola, 1968-1974', Small Wars & Insurgencies, 28 (2017), 309-36.

Christopher R. W. Dietrich, ‘“The Sustenance of Salisbury” in the Era of Decolonization: The Portuguese Politics of Neutrality and the Rhodesian Oil Embargo, 1965-7’, International Historical Review, 35 (2013), 235-55.

Graham Evans, ‘The Great Simplifier: The Cold War and Southern Africa’, in Alan P. Dobson, Shahin P. Malik, and Graham Evans (eds), Deconstructing and Reconstructing the Cold War (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999).

Maria Paula Meneses, Celso Braga Rosa, and Bruno Sena Martins, 'Colonial Wars, Colonial Alliances: The Alcora Exercise in the Context of Southern Africa', Journal of Southern African Studies, 43 (2017), 397-410.

Filipe Ribeiro de Meneses and Robert McNamara, ‘The Origins of Exercise ALCORA, 1960-71’, International History Review, 35 (2013), 1113-134.

Filipe Ribeiro de Meneses and Robert McNamara, ‘Exercise ALCORA: Expansion and Demise, 1971-4’, International History Review, 36 (2014), 89-111.

Filipe Ribeiro de Meneses and Robert McNamara, ‘South Africa and the Aftermath of Portugal’s “Exemplary” Decolonization: The Security Dimension’, Portuguese Studies, 29 (2013), 227-50.

Filipe Ribeiro de Meneses and Robert McNamara, ‘Parallel Diplomacy, Parallel War: The PIDE/DGS’s Dealings with Rhodesia and South Africa, 1961-1974’, Journal of Contemporary History, 49 (2014), 366-89.

Sue Onslow, ‘A Question of Timing: South Africa and Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence, 1964-65’, Cold War History, 5 (2005), 129-59.

Sue Onslow (ed.), Cold War in Southern Africa: White Power, Black Liberation (London: Routledge, 2009).

Sue Onslow, ‘Resistance to “Winds of Change”: The Emergence of the “Unholy Alliance” between Southern Rhodesia, Portugal and South Africa, 1964-5’ in L. J. Butler and Sarah Stockwell (eds), The Wind of Change: Harold Macmillan and British Decolonization (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 215-34 [e-book].

Elizabeth Schmidt, Foreign Intervention in Africa: From the Cold War to the War on Terror (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 103-42 [e-book].


Ken Flower, Serving Secretly: An Intelligence Chief on Record – Rhodesia and Zimbabwe, 1964-1981 (London: John Murray, 1987).

Donal Lowry, ‘The Impact of Anti-Communism and the Cold War on White Rhodesian Political Culture, ca. 1920s-1980’, Cold War History, 7 (2007), 169-94.

Philip Murphy, ‘South African Intelligence, the Wilson Plot and Post-Imperial Trauma’, in Patrick Major and Christopher R. Moran (eds), Spooked: Britain, Empire and Intelligence since 1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2010), 97-118.

Sue Onslow, ‘We Must Gain Time: South Africa, Rhodesia and the Kissinger Initiative of 1976’, South African Historical Journal, 56 (2006), 123-53.

Joanna Warson, ‘Entangled Ends of Empire: The Role of France and Francophone Africa in the Decolonisation of Rhodesia’, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 16 (2015), no pagination.


Norrie McQueen, The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa: Metropolitan Revolution and the Dissolution of Empire (London: Longman, 1997).

Joseph C. Miller, ‘The Politics of Decolonization in Portuguese Africa’, African Affairs, 74 (1975), 135-47.

Pedro Aires Oliveira, ‘The United Kingdom and the Independence of Portuguese Africa (1974-76): Stakes, Perceptions and Policy Options’, Revue Française de Civilisation Britannique, 18 (2012), 105-28.

Witney W. Schneidman, Engaging Africa: Washington and the Fall of Portugal’s Colonial Empire (Lanham: University of America Press, 2004).

Glyn Stone, ‘Britain and Portuguese Africa, 1961-65’, Journal of Imperial & Commonwealth History, 28 (2000), 169-92.

South Africa

*Jamie Miller, An African Volk: The Apartheid Regime and Its Search for Survival (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).

Jamie Miller, 'Apartheid South Africa and the Collapse of the Portuguese Empire', CWIHP eDossier No. 76 (2016). [includes links to archive documents]

Sue Onslow, ‘South Africa and the Owen-Vance Pact’, South African Historical Journal, 51 (2004), 130-58.

Roger Pfister, Apartheid South Africa and African States, 1961-1994 (London: IB Tauris, 2005).

James Sanders, Apartheid’s Friends: The Rise and Fall of South Africa’s Secret Service (London: John Murray, 2006).

Ian Taylor, ‘The Ambiguous Commitment: The People’s Republic of China and the Anti-Apartheid Struggle in South Africa’, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 18 (2000), 91-106.