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Jan Smuts: Unafraid of Greatness

Richard Steyn

Jan Christiaan Smuts was world famous as a soldier, statesman and intellectual, one of South Africa’s greatest leaders. Yet little is said or written about him today, even though we appear to live in a leadership vacuum.

Unafraid of Greatness is a re-examination of the life and thoughts of Smuts. It is intended to remind a contemporary readership of the remarkable achievements of this impressive soldier-statesman. Richard Steyn argues that Smuts’s role in the creation of modern South Africa should never be forgotten, not least because of his lifetime of devoted service to this country. The book draws a parallel between Smuts and President Thabo Mbeki, both architects of a new South Africa, much lionised abroad yet often distrusted at home.

This highly readable account of Smuts’s eventful life blends fact, anecdote and opinion in an examination of his complex character – his relationships with women, spiritual and intellectual life, and role as adviser to world leaders. Politics and international affairs lie at the heart of this book, but Smuts’s unique contributions in a variety of other fields, including botany, conservation and philosophy, also receive attention.

Unafraid of Greatness does not shy away from the contradictions of its subject. While Smuts was one of the architects of the United Nations and a great champion of human rights, he could not come to terms with the need to include the African majority in the politics of his own country.


Richard Steyn is the author of several bestselling books, including Churchill & Smuts: The Friendship and Louis Botha: A Man Apart. He edited the Natal Witness in Pietermaritzburg from 1975 to 1990, was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and editor in chief of The Star from 1990 to 1995. He served as Standard Bank’s Director of Corporate Affairs and Communications from 1996 to 2001, before returning to writing, book reviewing and publishing.

Category:  Biography & Memoir, Military History
ISBN:  9781776191901
Publisher:  Jonathan Ball Publishers
On sale:  March 2022
Format:  Paperback
eBook ISBN  9781868426959
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