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This book reconsiders the life of former South African Defense Minister, F.C. Erasmus. Although an architect of the Nationalists' post-war election victory, he was not considered a minster of the first rank. Erasmus initiated a process of ridding the defense force of officers who he believed were associated with the government of Jan Smuts. Erasmus felt that the armed services had been too British in its ethos and appearance and wanted to create a force that was uniquely South African. However, without an immanent military threat, Erasmus never received a substantial budgetary allocation to modernize the military which left the military unable to assist the civil power in suppressing disturbances. Moreover, while Erasmus sought to cement South Africa’s relations with the West, he was unsuccessful in creating an anti-communist alliance for the land and maritime defense of Africa. This new biography looks at the events and time period that shaped this period of South African history in an attempt to correct misinterpretation of this period.


“[the Author’s] study has made superb use of a vast range of archival evidence on three continents, and this is amplified by extensive oral testimonies from those involved in the 1950s. Thus it provides the reader with a remarkably full account of Erasmus’ pivotal career.” – Prof. David Dickson, Trinity College, Dublin

“… meticulous and thorough use of available archive sources and painstaking analysis of the evidence. In the process [the Author] identifies some errors made by scholars in the past who have discussed South African defence in the 1950s.” – Prof. Adrian Guelke, Queens University, Belfast

Table of Contents

Foreword by Professor David Dickson



Chapter One – Erasmus, Defence and the National Party in the Years of Opposition

Erasmus the Political Organiser

The Foundations of National Defence

The UDF in the Context of Commonwealth Defence

The National Party’s Defence and Foreign Policy in the Years of Opposition

Chapter Two – Erasmus and the Development of the Defence Force

The Creation of a Nationally Minded Officer Corps

The Combat Worthiness of the Defence Force

Altering the Ethos of the Defence Force

The Consolidation of Bi-Lingualism

The Defence Force and Apartheid Structures

Erasmus, the Defence Secretariat and the Administration of the Defence Force

Chapter Three – Erasmus and the Wider World

South Africa, Britain and the Defence of the Middle East

The Defence of Colonial Africa South of the Sahara

The Union and Maritime Defence

Erasmus and the United States

Chapter Four – Erasmus in the South African Political Realm

His Role in Cabinet Government

Erasmus and the Nationalist Milieu

The United Party and Erasmus

National Defence and the Extra-Parliamentary Groups

Chapter Five – Conclusion


Primary Sources

Secondary Sources


Names Index

Subject Index

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