M.E. Bratchel: A Memoir

Hamilton, C.I.
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The Southern African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (SASMARS)
To look back over a career in an institution, at least in the case of Michael Bratchel’s at the University of the Witwatersrand, is to survey forty years, since he arrived as a member of staff in the History Department at the end of 1972, a young Briton soon to have a freshly-minted Cambridge Ph.D., and he retired at the end of 2012. This is a long period, and, as is well known, the past is a different place, yet one we have to venture into. Unfortunately, memory can be suspect, being subject to various distortions, including its attachment to the obviously memorable, whether the good or the ill, hence the frequent allusion in memoirs to ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times’. However, in the present case, perhaps Dickens’s words are for once not too ill-applied, not just because we also have to deal with pre-revolutionary times, but also because surely in objective fact, as well as fond (and not-so-fond) memory, South African society and University life from the 1970s to the early 1990s were odd, paradoxical, contradictory (or perhaps just ‘pre-revolutionary’).
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