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Journal article

W.M. Macmillan: The Wits Years and Resignation, 1917–1933


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Taylor & Francis
Africa | Southern Africa

As one of South Africa's pioneer professional historians, William Miller Macmillan (1885–1974) is best remembered as the founder of the ‘liberal school’ of South African historiography. In his famous trilogy, The Cape Colour Question (1927): Bantu, Boer and Briton, The Making of the South African Native Problem (1929), and Complex South Africa (1930), he stressed the notion that the different races in South Africa constituted a single society. But he is also important for beginning the teaching of history at two of South Africa's English-medium universities, Rhodes and Wits, and for giving that teaching a strong European bias, which long survived him. The Department of History at Wits was his creation, and despite a brief reaction under his immediate successor, Professor Leo Fouché, the direction he gave it proved enduring. His contribution to South African historiography together with his inspirational teaching at Wits were cut short in 1933 when he resigned while on sabbatical in...


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