The lost papers : a mystery

When Daantjie died in 1969, all his writing, lectures, letters and administrative papers were left in his office, in the care of the University. None were returned to the family. No trace of them can now be found. On a recent trip to South Africa in early 2014 I met with Ian MacDonald (who was Professor and Head of Department from the early 1980's) over lunch: he does not remember having ever seen them, though they would have been important papers for him. Professor Marius Vermaak took the trouble to look through the current department's cupboards and files, but has also seen no trace. They are similarly not to be found in the Cory Library, which acts has the university archive.

Some of the lost papers were reproduced in the early 1970's by Professor Ian Bunting in the collection “The Ethics of Illegal Action”, and others to relaunch the journal “Philosophical Papers”, though the originals are lost. Professor Bunting says in his introduction that Daantjie wrote prolifically. Although we don’t have clear information on what papers were left at the University, they would have represented the accumulated work and papers of Daantjie's 11 years at Rhodes University, and probably the papers he brought with him to Rhodes in 1958. They would be likely to include:
  • The text of talks (he spoke prolifically), including talks for the University Christian Movement, and occasional sermons. He always prepared his talks and lectures in writing, and never spoke off the cuff. Talks were sometimes re-worked, indicating that he had retained the previous versions. 
  • Lecture notes. 
  • Papers from his sabbaticals in Oxford in 1962 and 1968 and at Brown in 1968 (this will include both academic papers written during that period, and talks or seminars presented). 
  • Papers related to his position on the management board of the Christian Institute. 
  • Correspondence with a range of people of the day. 
  • Papers and legal advice regarding press articles over his remarks about Paul Kruger being mixed-race, at a debate in 1968. 

What might have happened to the lost papers?

  • It is possible that the papers were thrown away in a clear-out. (Nevertheless, his immediate successors were his students and would have recognised his work, and were also very capable academic administrators, making it unlikely that they would have discarded them out of hand. The Cory Library would have been an obvious recipient if space needed to be cleared from the Department, or the family in the years immediately after his death.) 
  • It is possible that they were lost when the Department moved within the University. (Experience of the practicalities of such moves makes this less likely than it would seem.) 
  • They may still be in forgotten boxes in the University (this remains a hope, though both the Registrar's department and the Cory Library have assured me that there is no other place than either the Cory Library or the Department). 
  • We also can not rule out the possibility that they came into the hands of Special Branch, or another security apparatus, at the time. (They would certainly have been of interest in the early 1970's at a time when the Christian Institute, the University Christian Movement, and NUSAS were all under investigation.) Nevertheless, there is no evidence that this happened. 

Help needed

We have copies of papers which were published, either in his lifetime, or posthumously. We were also lucky to find that a bound photocopy of the papers Daantjie wrote for Gilbert Ryle and Rom Harré during his 1968 sabbatical were with Professor Vincent Brümmer in Utrecht. A sermon given in 1966 was reproduced in South African Outlook in 1972, in support of people appearing before the Schlebusch Commission. Thanks to Professor Johan Degenaar's biography, we also know the names of two unpublished papers of which copies have not been found. These are "Is dit nog ons erns?", which was delivered on the Day of the Covenant, and "Iets oor ‘Nationalisme’"

It remains possible that copies of some talks, sermons or correspondence remain in the personal collections of different people from the period, and we would be hugely grateful for scans of any such papers which are found.

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