Smuts, Jan Christian

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Smuts, Jan Christian


Born May 24, 1870, on the farm Bovenplaats, near Riebeek West, Cape Colony; died Sept. 11, 1950, at Irene, near Pretoria. South African statesman. British field marshal (1941). Idealist philosopher.

The son of a wealthy Afrikaner landowner, Smuts graduated from Cambridge University. He was a Boer general during the Boer War (1899–1902) but later cooperated with the British forces. During World War I (1914–18) he directed operations against the Germans in Southwest and East Africa.

Smuts held a number of government posts in the Union of South Africa. He was minister of the interior and minister of mines from 1910 to 1912, minister of defense from 1910 to 1920, minister of finance in 1912 and 1913, and prime minister from 1919 to 1924. Smuts was later minister of justice from 1933 to 1939 and prime minister, minister of foreign affairs, and minister of defense from 1939 to 1948.

Smuts attended the Paris Peace Conference (1919–20) and helped draft the Covenant of the League of Nations. He was the initiator of the mandate system. Smuts carried out a policy of apartheid, or racial discrimination against the Negro population. In 1942 his government recognized the USSR, but in 1943 he upheld the creation of an anti-Soviet Western bloc. His political writings advocated racism.

Smuts originated the philosophy of holism, according to which a series of nonmaterial and unknowable wholes lies at the basis of evolution. An opponent of the materialist doctrine of evolution. Smuts approached Bergson’s idealist theory of creative evolution and C. Lloyd Morgan’s theory of emergent evolution.


Holism and Evolution. New York, 1926.
Plans for a Better world. London, 1942.


Bogomolov, A. S. Ideia razvitiia ν burzhuaznoi filosofii XIX i XX vekov. Moscow, 1962. Pages 320-35.
Kremianskii, V. I. Strukturnye urovni zhivoi materii. Moscow, 1969. Pages 47-52.
Crafford, F. S. Jan Smuts: A Biography. New York, 1945.
Williams, B. Botha, Smuts and South Africa. New York, 1948. [23–1872–]
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.