Summer School 2021

Jan Smuts and his Great War in Africa


David Brock Katz, historian, author and soldier

Jan Smuts dominated the South African political scene in the first half of the twentieth century. He was a renowned international statesman, a signatory to three peace treaties and a prominent contributor to the founding of the League of Nations and the United Nations. He was a scholar, academic, philosopher, botanist and nation builder. At his core he was a soldier who served in three armies, three wars and three campaigns. 

A plethora of work exists describing various aspects of Smuts’s half-century of active political life. Fewer are works dealing with his significant military career. Smuts has received much adverse commentary from his peers and especially from contemporary historians. 

These lectures will revisit the question of whether Smuts was a capable general by using WWI and his campaigns in German South West Africa and German East Africa as a lens.


  1. Background to the military Smuts and his role in the Second Anglo-Boer War
  2. Smuts and the German South West African Campaign 1914–1915
  3. Smuts versus Lettow-Vorbeck in the German East African Campaign

This course will be offered on the Microsoft Teams platform. Participants will be sent a link.


Recommended reading

Armstrong, H.C. 1941. Grey Steel. London: Methuen and Co.

Du Pisani, K. Kriek, D.J., De Jager, C. (eds.). 2017. Jan Smuts: Van Boerseun Tot Wereldverhoog. Pretoria: Protea.

Hancock, W.K. 1962. Smuts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Meinertzhagen, R. 1960. Army Diary 1899–1926. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd.

Steyn, R. 2015. Jan Smuts: Unafraid of Greatness. Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball.


Date: Wednesday 27–Friday 29 January  
Time: 11.15 am