WITS: The Early Years

A History of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and its Precursors 1896-1939

  • Publication Date: Sept 2022
  • Dimensions and Pages: 244 x 170mm Extent: 412pp
  • Paperback EAN: 978-1-77614-808-0
  • eBook EAN: 978-1-77614-811-0
  • PDF EAN: 978-1-77614-810-3
  • Rights: World
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): 375
  • Recommended Price (USD): 35

With a foreword by Keith Breckenridge.

WITS: The Early Years is a history of the University up to 1939. First established in 1922,
the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg developed out of the South African
School of Mines in Kimberley circa 1896. Examining the historical foundations, the
struggle to establish a university in Johannesburg, and the progress of the University in
the two decades prior to World War II, historian Bruce Murray captures the quality and
texture of life in the early years of Wits University and the personalities who enlivened it
and contributed to its growth.

Particular attention is given to the wider issues and the challenges which faced Wits
in its formative years. The book examines the role Wits came to occupy as a major centre
of liberal thought and criticism in South Africa, its contribution to the development of
the professions of the country, the relationship of its research to the wider society, and
its attempts to grapple with a range of peculiarly South African problems, such as the
admission of black students to the University and the relations of English- and Afrikaans speaking
white students within it.

This edition of WITS: The Early Years is republished in the University’s centenary year
with a preface by Keith Breckenridge, who writes, ‘In the republication of Murray’s two
volume history of Wits, readers have an opportunity to explore the often dramatic and
contested story of this university … Murray produced an intimate, almost scandalous
intellectual history of the institution that served as his home for practically half a

Keywords: University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; centenary; university
history; Wits; intellectual history; institutional history; early Johannesburg; mining and
engineering; pioneers of Johannesburg; discovery of gold on the reef.

Foreword by D.J. du Plessis
Foreword by Keith Breckenridge
Part I: Prelude to a University
I. False Start: Milner, Beit, and Smuts
II. From School of Mines to University
Part II: The New University
III. A Turbulent Beginning
IV. Administration, Finance, and Buildings
V. Arts and Science
VI. The Professional Faculties
Part III: Raikes: The First Decade
VII. Depression and Recovery
VIII. Ascendancy of the Professions
Part IV: Students and Special Issues
IX. Questions of Discrimination
X. Student Life
A Note on Sources

Bruce Murray was Professor Emeritus of History at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He is the author of The People’s Budget 1909/10: Lloyd George and Liberal Politics and Wits: The ‘Open’ Years.

Keith Breckenridge is a professor of History and Deputy Director at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research.

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