Leo Fouché and history at Wits University, 1934–1942 (Englisch)

In: African Historical Review   ;  48 ,  1  ;  83-99  ;  2016

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Leo Fouché, the first Professor of History at Pretoria University, was the surprise choice to replace W.M. Macmillan, the first Professor of History at Wits University, following his resignation in 1933. Fouché served at Wits from 1934 to 1942, departing to take up the post of chairman of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. His tenure at both Pretoria and Wits was assessed negatively in the official histories of the two universities. In Ad Destinatum: Gedenkboek van die Universiteit van Pretoria 1910–1960, A.N. Pelzer ignored Fouché’s major contribution in building up history at Pretoria and focussed instead on his failure to serve the Afrikaans movement. In Wits: The Early Years, B.K. Murray represented the conservative Fouché as a major disappointment, both as a researcher and as a teacher, following his productive and progressive-minded predecessor. In this article, an attempt is made to present a more detailed and rounded assessment of his tenure at Wits. While he published little, and his syllabus changes, with their narrow focus on white South African history, did not outlast him, his tenure was generally a positive one for the Department of History. Student numbers grew substantially, an additional staff post was secured, and postgraduate research was actively promoted. Three of his postgraduate students went on to distinguished academic careers in history.

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