The establishment of the Transvaal University College (TUC) in Pretoria took place at a very significant historical time in the wake of the South African War and its first decade coincided with the formation of the Union of South Africa and the outbreak of World War I. Furthermore, in this period successive administrations of the Transvaal and of South Africa pursued an ideal of forming a new unified white South African identity known as broad South Africanism. This project was strongly associated with education and found expression in much of the discourse regarding emerging higher education in the country. This study will approach the early history of the TUC from the perspective of broad South Africanism, attempting to shed light on white identity politics and their relationship to higher education in these early decades of the twentieth century.
The thesis will begin by examining university history as a genre of historical writing, highlighting various approaches to the writing of university histories. It will then investigate the development of universities in Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in order to point out influential trends and models which can be traced in the establishment of South African universities. This is followed by a brief account of the growth of higher education in South Africa, paying particular attention to its development in the Transvaal which gave rise to the establishment of the TUC, first in Johannesburg and then in Pretoria. The development of the notions of broad South Africanism and conciliation will then be considered followed by an examination of how these notions were related to higher education in this period. The study will then focus specifically on the way in which broad South Africanism was manifested at the TUC. It will highlight official intentions regarding broad South Africanism at the College and the initial responses of the student body to this policy. A second section will discuss the development of broad South Africanism at the TUC after the outbreak of World War I and the ensuing 1914 rebellion. This will also include an investigation of sentiments which opposed broad South Africanism, favouring a more exclusive white identity. Thus, this study will endeavour to demonstrate how an understanding of university history can shed further light on a complex period in South African history and highlight the significant relationship between higher education institutions and the wider historical context.