Fransjohan Pretorius, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Pretoria (UP), has won the Jan H Marais Prize for outstanding contribution to Afrikaans as an academic language. Prof Pretorius is one of South Africa's best-known historians thanks to his specialisation on the South African War. “This award is a huge compliment for someone who has merely done his job to the best of his ability,” he said after the SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns (South African Academy for Science and Art) named him the recipient.
Prof Pretorius is a UP alumnus who also studied at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, and received his PhD from Unisa. He was a lecturer in the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies from 1989 until his retirement in 2014. He is also a B1-rated researcher with the National Research Foundation.
“This is well-deserved recognition for a lifetime dedicated to extensive research and prolific writing on one of the pivotal events in the history of twentieth century South Africa,” said Professor Karen Harris, Head of UP’s Department of Historical and Heritage Studies.
Fransjohan Pretorius, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Pretoria (UP), has won the Jan H Marais Prize for outstanding contribution to Afrikaans as an academic language.
Prof Pretorius has written hundreds of publications over the past 45 years, including more than eight books, scientific articles, and popular newspaper contributions. His book ‘Life on Commando during the Anglo-Boer War’ is recognised internationally. He is the editor of ‘Scorched Earth’, a well-illustrated book detailing the British policy of scorched earth and life in the concentration camps in which thousands of black and white South Africans died during the Anglo-Boer (South African) War.
He received his award of R500 000 at a function held by the Het Jan H Marais Trust and the SAAWK, which administers the award, in Stellenbosch. The selection committee is made up of leading academics from different disciplines. The Jan H Marais Prize is an annual prize which was started in 2015, and is a joint decision between the Het Jan Marais Nationale Fonds, Naspers and Stellenbosch University.
In his acceptance speech, Prof Pretorius called on the Afrikaans-speaking community to strive to be inclusive while continuing to strengthen Afrikaans as an academic language: “We must guard against a situation where the Afrikaner's master narrative of his history becomes like a little pebble that one throws into a farm dam – for a while it makes ripples, but the ripples move outward and disappear after a while. Our master narrative must not disappear.
"The solution is to polish our master narrative with a striving towards objectivity. So let us do this to the best of our ability. Then our master narrative can be placed alongside other master narratives, so that we have a loose but inclusive master narrative – your story and mine. We should realise and acknowledge the different angles of incidence and place them next to each other, and point out one another's fallacies. As an historian, I can only attempt to execute this viewpoint with each little piece of history I write.”