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Bill Nasson

farmer, general, and first prime minister of the Union of South Africa, was born on 27 September 1862 near Greytown in the British colony of Natal. His paternal grandfather, Philip Rudolph Boot (or Both), was of German settler descent and had participated in the 1830s Boer Great Trek into the interior. The son of migrant trekkers Louis Botha and Salomina van Rooyen, Louis was the ninth of thirteen children. In 1869, the Botha family left Natal and settled on a farm near Vrede in the Orange Free State, where Louis lived until the age of twenty-two. Earlier, he had been schooled at a local German mission where he received only a very basic education.

Botha’s minimal formal learning proved to be no handicap to the development of his exceptional aptitude for fieldcraft and understanding of the working of the highveld terrain. In 1886 he settled on his ...


Robert Skinner

South African nationalist, was born near Riebeeck West, in the Cape Colony. After beginning his schooling late at twelve years old, he soon showed a remarkable capacity for learning and gained entry to Victoria College, Stellenbosch. Here he encountered the political ideas of Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr, began to formulate ideas about a unified South Africa, and discovered an interest in botany. It was during this time that he met his future wife, Isie Krige. His academic success was awarded with a scholarship for overseas study, and in 1891 he traveled to the United Kingdom, where he studied law at Christ’s College, Cambridge.

Having passed his law examinations in London, Smuts returned to South Africa in 1895, where he began to be involved in political activities, supporting the partnership between Hofmeyr and Cecil Rhodes. However, following the Jameson Raid of 1896 Smuts became disillusioned with Rhodes and became an ...