About the Department
Economics as a science, originally referred to as Political Economics, was founded during the second half of the eighteenth century. However, it was established as an academic subject at most Western universities only in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
Considering that Economics has only existed as a general academic discipline at Western universities for some 120 years, the Department of Economics at the University of Stellenbosch has a fairly long history. In fact, our Department is one of the oldest of its kind amongst all the universities in Africa.
Ever since it was established, the various professors who have been involved in it over the years have made great contributions to build the Department of Economics into the successful institution that it is today.
The first professorship in Economics was awarded to Johannes Grosskopf (1885-1948) between 1929 and 1935. However, it unleashed many disputes. According to Act 11 of 1915, no person who partook in the Rebellion of 1914 was allowed to have any access to a "teaching position". Because Grosskopf did in fact take part in the Rebellion, the Minister of Education - who was part of the SAP Cabinet of the time - did not allow Grosskopf to accept the offer. Eventually the parliament proclaimed an Act of Indemnity that made it possible for Grosskopf to accept the post. The result of the delay was that the Department had to wait two years to make its appointment, since the vacant post had already been available in 1918.
Prof Grosskopf is especially well-known for the important role that he played, together with Prof Bobby Wilcocks and Mrs ME Rothman (MER), in the compilation of the Carnegie Report. The report, also known as the Carnegie Poor White Study, deals with issues relating to the poor whites living in South Africa at that time, and was published in 1932. Prof Grosskopf's contribution was to determine the socioeconomic reasons for the whites' poverty. The report found that a third of the one million Afrikaners in 1931 enjoyed a satisfactory economic status, another third was poor, and the the remainderwas "very" and "distressfully" poor. The report had an objective and unemotional tone. Interestingly, the white population was not divided into groups of Afrikaans or English speaking people, but rather according to an "older white population", which referred to those people that descended from Dutch, French and German origin, and a "younger white population" - people who mainly originated from England.
In 1935 Prof Grosskopf was employed by the Department of Trade and Industry, where he became head of the Division for Economics and Markets. He specialised in Agricultural Economics. After his retirement in 1945, he became deputy chairman of the National Marketing Council. He passed away in 1948.
Prof Grosskopf will not only be remembered for his work as an economist, but also for his talent as a playwright and great knowledge of as well as interest in the Fine Arts. His Drie Eenbedrywe is an Afrikaans volume of drama which was awarded the Hertzog literary prize in 1926. Grosskopf also befriended another well-known Afrikaans author, Hendrik Pierneef, and published a successful book about him.
The successor to Prof Grosskopf was Prof Koos Botha. Many students referred to him as Prof Boos Kotha, reflecting their impression of him as a strict man. His term with the Department was short, lasting only from 1 January 1936 until the 31st of August 1937. Afterwards he became a member of the Loan Council and, later on, the president thereof. He was appointed a member of the Railroad Council in the early fifties.
Both professors Grosskopf and Botha founded a tradition of economic policy in the Department of Economics which they passed down to the professors and lecturers that followed them. The way in which they became involved in the public arena of the socio-political problems of the time, is still practiced by the current staff: thoughts and methods are not narrow-minded and theoretical, but policy orientated as well as politically informed and involved.