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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Smuts biographies: analysis and historiographical assessment
Author:Du Pisani, Kobus
Periodical:South African Historical Journal (ISSN 1726-1686)
Geographic term:South Africa
About person:Jan Christiaan Smuts (1870-1950)ISNI
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/02582473.2016.1230645
Abstract:Jan Christiaan Smuts (1870-1950) is one of the most well-known twentieth-century South Africans. Nationally and internationally this versatile individual made significant contributions as a statesman, politician, military commander and intellectual. As a leader he had his strengths and weaknesses and remains a controversial figure. Because of his fame many biographies of Smuts have been published. In this article the historiographical contribution of these biographies is analysed and assessed. Assessment criteria that have been developed for historical biography as a genre are applied. The objectives, abilities and disabilities of the Smuts biographers are assessed. A quantitative and qualitative content analysis of the biographies is made to determine their historiographical contribution. Half a century after its publication Hancock's two-volume biography remains the benchmark. In the more recent biographies strides have been made in the interpretation of Smuts's role as international statesman and holistic thinker. However, to some extent Martin Legassick's observation in 1995 that the 'reality' of Smuts had not been sufficiently uncovered in the biographies is still applicable today, especially as far as Smuts's racial views and policies are concerned. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]