Jan Christian Smuts: Correspondence

Scope and Content

Typed extracts of letters to the Clark and Gillett families (files 1-19)

1. Letters to Alice Clark, 1906-1933.

2-17. Letters to Margaret Clark Gillett and Arthur B. Gillett: 1906-1919, 1920-1925, 1926-1930, 1931-1932, 1933-1934, 1935-1936, 1937-1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944-1945, 1946, 1947-1948, and 1949-1950.

18. Miscellaneous file of Smuts letters to (1) Dr Hilda Clark, (2) Roger Clark, (3) William S. Clark, (4) the children of A.B. and M.C. Gillett, and (5) Dr Henry Gillett.

19. Letters from Smuts to Jan B. Gillett, son of A.B. and M.C. Gillett, 1925-1949.

Gillett Background Material (files 20-29)

20. M.C. Gillett's journal, containing extracts by Gillett regarding Smuts, 1918-1921.

21. M.C. Gillett's notes, containing extracts by Gillett, and some inter-Gillett letters of 1917-1923.

22. M.C. Gillett's extracts from letters of Isie K. Smuts and other relatives of Smuts to M.C. Gillett.

23-28. Mainly extracts by M.C. Gillett from letters and journals of M.C. and A.B. Gillett and inter-family.

29. Extracts by M.C. Gillett of letters from (1) Mrs. Steyn to M.C. and A.B. Gillett, and (2) sundry from M.C. Gillett and other members of her family.

Administrative / Biographical History

Jan Christian Smuts (1870-1950) was born in the Cape Colony, of Dutch origin. He graduated in science and literature from Stellenbosch in 1891, before attending Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1894, where he studied law. He was admitted to the Cape bar in 1895. In 1896 he moved to the Transvaal, and became state attorney in 1898, and colonial secretary and minister of education, 1907-1910. He was minister of defence in the Union government, 1910-1919, as a member of the South African Party under Louis Botha. In 1916 he was commissioned as lieutenant-general in the British Army to command the imperial forces in East Africa. He represented the Union at the imperial conference and war cabinet in 1917 and remained as a member of the British war cabinet. He was one of the chief sponsors of the League of Nations. Smuts was prime minister of South Africa between 1919 and 1924, during which time he suppressed the Rand rebellion (1922). He was defeated in the election of 1924, and spent a long period in opposition, before entering a coalition as deputy prime minister under J.B.M. Hertzog, 1933-1939. In 1934 the United South African National Party was formed from the combining of their respective parties. Smuts was prime minister again from 1939 to 1948, and field-marshal in 1941. He also served as chancellor of the universities of Cape Town, 1936-1950, and of Cambridge, 1948-1950.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Presented by Bancroft Clark, 1971.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. The biographical history was compiled with reference to the entry on Smuts in the Concise Dictionary of National Biography, Part II, 1901-1970, pp. 619-620 (Oxford University Press, 1982).

Other Finding Aids

Additional Manuscripts Catalogue.

Related Material

Cambridge University Library holds microfilms of letters from Smuts to members of the Clark and Gillett families, possibly the originals of letters found in the collection, although arranged differently, Microfilm MSS. 773-782. There are also letters to Smuts, Microfilm MSS. 666-761. Microfilm MS. 763 includes some letters of Smuts to members of the Clark and Gillett families.

Additional Information

The originals of files 20-28 and 29 (2) were deposited in the Smuts Archive (now transferred to the Government Archives, Pretoria, South Africa), 1965-1966; 29 (1) was sent to Gladys Steyn, Bloemfontein, 1958.