Wallace G. Mills Hist. 316 18 White Settlers

White Settlers in South Africa to 1870

- the settlement at Cape Town was established in 1652 by the VOC (Dutch East India Company) to be a revitalling station for ships making the journey between Europe and the company’s possessions in Batavia (Indonesia, but including Ceylon). Being able to stop to replenish food and water about half way would allow ships to carry more profit-making cargo. Initially, everyone who arrived was connected to the VOC—an officer, an employee or a slave(the latter initially were brought from Batavia).

- although the company was Dutch, a significant proportion of the employees were foreigners from other parts of Europe, including a number of Germans. Like the French Foreign Legion in more recent times, the VOC was a refuge for people who wanted (or needed) to get away; employees, sometimes described as the ‘scum of Europe’, signed long term contracts (20 years). Although some officers were accompanied by wives and families, employees were not. As a result, despite company orders and policies, it was impossible to keep the white male employees out of the female slave quarters. Thus, most of the children born to female slaves were fathered by white employees. Subsequently, many of these offspring (especially the females) married into and became part of the ‘white’ community. This suggests that colour prejudice was not high.

- in a move to cut expenses (the colony was always a drain on the company), it was decided to release most of the employees from their contracts and thus turn them into ‘free burghers’ (i.e., free citizens); this gave them rights to own land and property, as well as other rights. Making them independent would not only save the company the expense of their wages, but being on their own would encourage and force them to be more assiduous as producers. All produce for sale to ships had to be sold to the company so the company would still get the supplies it wanted for revitalling and most of the profits.

- from an early period (probably because of the presence of non-white slaves), whites were unwilling to do physical labour. Thus, importing of slaves was an on-going requirement.

- the company also tried to encourage settlers to emigrate from the Netherlands, but only a handful of families did so until 1688. As the result of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (and accompanying persecution of Huguenots), thousands of French Protestants fled as refugees to the Netherlands and England. In the Netherlands, they were offered the chance to go to the Cape and about 200 Huguenot families accepted and emigrated there over the next 2 years or so. This was a very substantial addition to the very slow growing white community. Moreover, these were families and helped to balance the sexes among whites.

- even before the arrival of the Huguenots, the settlement had outgrown the Cape peninsula and had spread across the Cape Flats (a sandy, dry area unsuitable for agriculture) to the area of Stellenbosch and the Hottentots Holland Mountains. The Huguenot families were settled interspersed (a deliberate policy) among the existing Dutch families, helping to settle the country to Paarl and beyond; the Huguenot families were quickly assimilated (they were Calvinist, just like the Dutch Reformed Church).


- ‘boer’ = farmer and ‘trek’ = journey or trip; thus, literally, ‘trekboer’ means ‘traveling farmer’ or ‘migrating farmer’

- in the original settlement at Cape Town to the west of the Hottentots Holland Mtns., the emphasis was upon agriculture. However, the Company had been unable to prevent burgers from acquiring and keeping cattle.

- the mountains had become the boundary, but as herds grew in the Stellenbosch-Paarl area, some farmers began to take their cattle into and beyond the mountains for additional pasturage for at least part of the year. There was an evolution as the distances became greater and some farmers would stay longer. Also, younger men who wanted to become independent and get married found that this was an alternative.

- eventually, some turned to stock farming as their main activity; such limited agriculture as they practiced was for their own use. A couple of factors dictated this: distance made it uneconomic to transport grain very far overland to Cape Town while cattle could be driven there to markets; also, as they moved further east and north, rainfall diminished and often most of the land was really only suitable for pastoralism.

- this development began an interesting process: - in these respects, they became more and more like the indigenous peoples—pastoralists and a bit footloose.

- they did try to maintain their religion, although they tended to develop their own unique interpretations of the Bible and special interpretations of Calvinism (e.g., Afrikaners as a ‘Chosen people’).

- the nature of pastoralism and the dryness of the country meant that the trekboer population was very dispersed; farms were very large (6,000 acres or more). It was said that trekboers did not like to be able to see smoke from a neighbour’s farm.

- they tended to marry at an early age (17-19 for men and 15-18 for women) and as a result, they had large families; this resulted in rapid population growth.

- in the interior, it came to be accepted as a birthright that each male deserved to have his own farm; the result was a voracious appetite for land, given the large size of farms; in dry areas, they needed water holes so some areas were not suitable as farms.

- there was also a large demand for labour to tend stock and as servants, but trekboers had little cash and few could buy slaves; thus, they came to rely upon the Khoikhoi and to coerce them into providing the needed labour.

- in the struggle for land and water, Khoikhoi society had largely disintegrated and Khoikhoi were largely on their own in relatively small groups; with the advantages of guns and horses, the commando system was adequate to overcome most Khoikhoi resistance.

- thus, Khoikhoi survivors were forced into becoming a subordinate labour supply; while nominally ‘free’, they were little better off (in some ways perhaps worse off) than slaves. We discussed some aspects of the mechanisms whites used in controlling and coercing the Khoikhoi and people of mixed genetic background as a labour supply.

- re: the procedure for holding land; initially (finally giving in to what was happening anyway) the Company had begun to issue permits to go beyond the boundaries claimed by the Company in order to use grazing areas.

- at first, the permits did not define specific areas or register specific areas with Company agents; the Company did charge fees or tithes for the use of the land; this suited pastoralists as there was no up-front capital charges to buy land and they could move off to new, ‘greener’ pastures without loss.

- the system did potentially involve insecurity because theoretically the right to use the land had to be renewed every year and the Company could refuse to do so. In practice, it did not and probably could not have refused; such a refusal would have been meaningless because the Company had no effective control.

- later in the 18th C, the Company did move to defined claims for which holders paid an annual quitrent; in theory this was not a big change, but in fact trekboers began to regard and to treat this as full title; they began to buy and sell these ‘farms’.

- trekboers did not recognise any title or claim of Khoikhoi; such ownership rights were only for ‘Christians’ which increasingly was synonymous with possessing a white skin.

- when trekboers saw land they wanted and if no whites already claimed it or were in possession, then they felt at liberty to claim it and take possession regardless of the fact that Khoikhoi might already be occupying and using it.

- if Khoikhoi offered resistance, the trekboers would call upon the assistance of others if the resistance was beyond the family’s resources; they could usually expect help because a commando was mainly an opportunity to rustle cattle or perhaps acquire land for oneself or one’s sons.

- in this way Khoikhoi were driven out or, once dispossessed of their cattle, reduced to becoming labour for the trekboers; if they submitted, they would be allowed to keep some cattle, in return for providing labour services.

- as the century wore on, trekboers became more decided and determined in rejecting any idea than anyone other than a ‘Christian’ (white) could claim to own land.

- there are other evidences of a growing intolerance by the last quarter of the 18th C; whites began to object to non-whites being in the same commando with whites; they began to insist that they be put into separate commandos (i.e., segregated). Some wanted to go even further to restrict their use of guns and shouldn’t allow them in commando at all. (This is when Griqua, Bergenaars and so on left to escape this intolerance; these were often people of mixed background, including children of white farmers, who had been employees often of considerable trust to be in possession of a gun and a horse. They were unwilling to accept the growing intolerance and moved with their families over the Orange River.).

- generally, trekboers became accustomed to little interference from the Company.

- later in the 18th C, the Company attempted to extend its control and to collect fees and taxes; this was bitterly resented.

- the process was repeated a number of times in the 18th and 19th Cs. Dissatisfaction with government attempts to control them would lead to dissent; the trekboers would declare their independence and declare themselves a ‘republic’. (Some news of the American and French Revolutions had filtered into South Africa by the 1780s and 1790s.)

- when the British invaded in 1795, a number of trekboers were in rebellion and had declared themselves a republic. It is important to remember that this tradition predated the coming of the British. Trekboer political notions were not too far from anarchy.

- confrontation with Africans beginning 1770s and 1780s

- the Xhosa had been slowly migrating westward and absorbing Khoikhoi for a long time; the eastward migrations of the trekboers brought the first conflicts in the the 1770s and 1780s approximately in the vicinity of modern Port Elizabeth.

-there had been sporadic contracts even earlier from whites who had trekked far into the interior hunting and/or trading (these guys were similar to the buffalo hunters in North America who preceded the coming of settlers). A couple of them even married Xhosa wives.

- people on both sides were confident; early conflicts were extended skirmishes and cattle raiding.

- the first conflicts were also indecisive; whites had guns and horses which certainly surprised and amazed Africans. However, Africans soon learned the limitations of 18th C firearms and recognised the advantages of their greater numbers. They also learned that the advantages of horses were greatly reduced in bush areas in the Amatole Mountains and wooded areas along the coast. In the 19th C, these areas served as refuges and places for attack and ambush.

- Africans had strong political and social institutions (as compared to the Khoikhoi); also, whites were by no means united.

- in effect, this began a long stalemate, but over the next 100 years, pressures built on both sides and hostilities escalated.

- traditionally, the conflicts have been listed as “9 Kaffir Wars” (3 in the 18th C before the British arrived); others have sometimes referred to the 100 years’ war—1770s until the last (9th) Xhosa War in 1877-78.

Trekboer culture and ethos

- this certainly had its origins in the VOC period; the coming of the British posed some important challenges for this emerging way of life and value system: liberalism, a foreign language, a different political system, the threat of assimilation and Anglicization, etc.

- it is argued that the Great Trek (1837-1847) not only allowed the trekboer ethos to survive but also extended and deepened it.

Two areas of debate about the origins of trekboer ethos:

1. Role of the frontier

- this arose out of the application of the American historian Turner’s ‘frontier thesis’ to explain the development of American culture and society. He argued that it was the environment of the American frontier which had been the most important element in shaping American attitudes and values including egalitarianism, mass democracy, etc.

- the same idea has been used to explain the origin and development of trekboer ethos; by extension, it is argued that the trekboer tradition was the main influence in shaping Afrikaner nationalism.

- thus, the racial attitudes, feelings of superiority, etc. were formed first by the institution of slavery, but later by the experiences of conflict and competition with the indigenous peoples. Even though living in isolation and surrounded by hostile peoples and in danger of losing their civilisation and culture, they developed a sense of identity and preserved their culture (only a few mingled with the indigenous people and became assimilated).

- in this school of historiography, although there is a rejection of many of the racial attitudes, there is also a grudging admiration for many characteristics: independent spirit, resourcefulness, hardiness, self-sufficiency, etc.

- we should avoid either romanticising or exaggerating the frontier and its effects; it is clear that trekboers were adapting to their environment but not as certain how admirable the results were (after all, many equate the Ramboesque propensities of US society to the frontier experience; however, the old wild west on which so many pattern themselves is largely a myth which never existed).

- even less clear is the connection with Afrikaner nationalism. In fact, connections with Dutch and German nationalism in the late 19th C seem much more important in defining the nature of Afrikaner nationalism in the 20th C.

2. Role of Calvinism

- this is an area of much dispute; certainly, simply attributing everything to Calvinism explains very little as Calvinism involves a spectrum of ideas.

- unquestionably, the idea of predestination was prevalent among many Calvinists, but by no means among all. Even less a part of Calvinism was the idea that being ‘elect’ or ‘non-elect’ was correlated with skin pigmentation.

- it’s true that in the context of the French and Indian wars, many New England Puritans also developed harsh attitudes to ‘savages’; however, there had been mission work even in the early period and in the 18th C, they too got caught up in the great missionary outburst which began late in the century.

- even in the Cape, some Afrikaners in the early 19th C supported and contributed to mission work, even though the majority were at least dubious and many were outright hostile.

- nevertheless, it seems clear that most trekboers thought that only whites could be ‘saved’; the tendency to use the terms ‘Christian’ and ‘heathen’ as synonymous with ‘white’ and ‘black’ suggests this. The correlation of white—black, light—darkness with goodness—evil goes a long way back in Christian tradition and is not peculiar to Calvinism. Nor is the explanation that Africans were the descendants of Ham and their black skin is part of the curse for Ham’s sin unique to Calvinism. This myth was very useful in justifying the subordination of Africans to be servants of whites (supposedly the descendants of Shem). But again this myth was widely used by the defenders of the enslavement of Africans elsewhere.

- however, there was also a bit of ambiguity. Some trekboer families had their servants in for the daily prayers with the family. Also, many Afrikaners remained very close with their nannies for the rest of their lives.

- most other elements of identification with the Old Testament was more their own idea than Calvinism:

- it should be noted that much of Calvinism in Europe, including the Netherlands, was influenced by the Enlightenment in the 18th C, but this influence did not find its way to the trekboers.

British Settlers

- with the British occupation, British immigrants began to arrive in the Cape Colony—merchants in Cape Town or in Simonstown (the naval station) and missionaries. There were only a few immigrants who came to farm prior to 1820.

1820 Settlers

- this was a mass migration (about 4,000 men, women and children in 1820 and about 1,000 more over the next 2 years) to the Cape as a result of an assisted emigration scheme passed by the British parliament.

- in the wake of the French wars and the deflationary return to the gold standard for the British pound that produced a severe depression, there was high unemployment in Britain. Various proponents, especially Edward Gibbon Wakefield, argued that this problem could be solved very advantageously by assisting emigration of British families to the colonies. This was the 1st experiment in assisted emigration when parliament voted funds.

- in the Cape, the government was looking for a way to create a stable frontier; one explanation for the problem of recurring conflicts was to place the blame on the trekboers and their practices. Not only did they tend to take a high hand with indigenous peoples, but their pastoralism required huge amounts of land which brought them into conflict with indigenous peoples.

- the British settlers were perceived to be a solution to several problems.:

  1. they would introduce intensive agriculture. This would reduce the need for land vastly as 50-100 acres was a good sized farm in England that required a fair sized force of labourers to work. With this example, the trekboers would adopt the same methods; this would eliminate the need for more land for a long time (existing trekboer farms averaged 6,000 acres).

  2. there would be a reproduction of the class system of British society in rural areas. There would be large landowners, there would be tenant farmers, and there would be labourers and servants. White servants and labourers would solve the problems created by the attempt to force indigenous people to be the labour force.

  3. the British settlers would be settled densely in a corridor (on land from which the Xhosa had been pushed eastwards) that would separate trekboers from the Xhosa. Thus, they would be a buffer to prevent conflict in the future.

- the scheme was a disaster:

  1. except perhaps in a few river valleys, the land was much too dry for intensive agriculture at the best of times;

  2. the arrival of the 1820 settlers coincided with the onset of the worst drought in the 19th C.

  3. few of the 1820 settlers were farmers anyway; most were urban—lower middle class or upper working class. Most quickly left the land to move to a number of towns that sprang up. For the first time outside Cape Town, there began to be an urban population in the colony.

  4. the idea that physical labour was something that only slaves and non-whites did was already too deeply entrenched; few whites were willing to take any employment that involved physical labour.

  5. the Xhosa did not take any more kindly to seeing their land occupied by British white settlers rather than trekboers. They wanted to take back their land. The result was that the British authorities were worse off than before because the British settlers had much stronger claims on protection from the British than did the trekboers.

  6. British settlers quickly proved that they could adopt just as harsh attitudes to Africans as trekboers had. They also began to complain about their need for labour and to demand that the government do something, even force Africans to supply that labour.

Trekboers and migrations

- trekboers had developed the tradition that if they needed more or better land, moving farther was the way to acquire it. These treks or journeys were undertaken by small groups or families.

- by the early 19th C, these treks had ceased because of

  1. confrontation with the Xhosa to the east and
  2. a law by British authorities in Cape Town forbidding migration north of the Orange River.

- for reasons we shall discuss, a series of coordinated, large treks were undertaken beginning in 1837. These collectively came to be called ‘The Great Trek’. Traditionally, it was said to have ended in 1847 (the bulk of the migration happened in the first years up to 1840), although small scale migration continued afterwards.

- one estimate is that 6,000 whites left the Cape Colony up to 1840. Another estimate is that over 15,000 people in total left in that period; however, this includes non-whites who made up at least half of the total. Although they are given little recognition in the Afrikaner nationalist hagiography, a great many servants and employees (mostly Coloureds) also were part of the ‘Great Trek’. One reason for the designation ‘great’ is this size and scale of the migration.

- later, as Afrikaner identity and nationalism began to grow, this series of events (including the battles with various indigenous peoples), came to be regarded as an heroic and defining moment in the history of the Afrikaner ‘nation’. The white participants began to be regarded as larger-than-life heroes who had preserved the Afrikaner ‘nation’ from Anglicization and assimilation. They came to be called ‘Voortrekkers’ meaning those trekkers who went before—i.e., the first Afrikaner nationalists. They have tended to be venerated (like saints or like Americans regard their ‘founding fathers’).

- as noted, the Great Trek was composed of a number of individual ‘treks’. The latter were a bit like wagon trains during the 19th C in the U.S. Some treks had several hundred white people, at least an equal number of servants, large numbers of ox wagons (bigger and much heavier than ‘prairie schooners’ in the U.S.), and huge herds of cattle and livestock. Most treks were organised by and around a particular leader. Moreover, as was shown repeatedly over the next 30 years or so, loyalty was usually to individual leaders rather than to the mystical entity, the ‘nation’.


- the Great Trek has been the subject of disparate interpretations:

1. Flight from bondage in the land of Egypt

- this was the line taken by the Voortrekkers themselves. They complained of a number of grievances and ‘injustices’ under British rule (the Black circuit, Slaughter’s Nek, Anglicization policies, immoral and impious overturning of divine order by imposing equality between ‘Christians’ and ‘heathens’, the abolition of slavery and the inadequate compensation, maligning of Boers by missionaries and other malicious persons, refusal to allow all cattle and land confiscations from Xhosa in the wars that whites argued were their due, etc.). The government in Cape Town was likened to the government of the pharaohs.

- this shows the trekboer tendency to draw analogies between their own experience and events in the Bible, even to feel that, like the ancient Hebrews, they were a chosen people.

2. Meddling busybodies and do-gooders in London

- this was the line taken by the British settlers and the ‘settler’ school of historians who had their own axes to grind.

- the Great Trek was seen as the consequences of the pernicious influence of Exeter Hall (this is where many of the huge rallies by the anti-slavery groups and groups like the Aborigines Protection Society were held) and the meddling of ignorant do-gooders in Whitehall (the Colonial Office in London) who had no understanding of the ‘realities’ in South Africa. The trekkers had been goaded beyond the point of endurance to the point that they were prepared to face the dangers of the unknown in order to get away.

3. Incorrigible slave masters

- missionaries and other critics argued that the trekboers were upset because slavery and their high-handed oppression of the indigenous people were ended or at least being curbed. The Great Trek into the interior was mainly an attempt to reestablish the old ways and slavery again.

- the Voortrekkers hotly denied that they were involved in slavery, but in fact ‘apprenticeship’ reemerged among the Voortrekkers.

4. Nationalist super heroes

- as noted, this movement came later to be viewed in a nationalist perspective. With Anglicization and ‘liberalism’, the infant Afrikaner nation was being threatened with extinction (cultural genocide is the more florid term used by the unthinking nowadays).

- the brave and hardy Voortrekkers faced the overwhelming natural and human dangers in wildest Africa to preserve the infant and vulnerable Afrikaner nation from contamination, culturally and religiously. The Voortrekkers became great super heroes in the pantheon of Afrikaner nationalism.

5. Landless poor whites

- recent interpretations tend to stress more mundane factors and motivations for the movement. Migration to acquire more land had been bottled up for 40-50 years and there was a growing number of landless white males. In trekboer society, this was a terrible situation and fate. Their only course was to become a ‘bywoner’ to some relative or other farmer with land. As such, they would provide services (usually as an overseer) and be allowed to use some land for a few cattle or agricultural purposes. This meant that their status was only a bit better than non-white servants.

Piet Retief’s Manifesto

- Retief was one of the most influential of the Great Trek leaders. He was a bit unusual in a couple of respects. He was much better off than most trekkers; at one time he owned over 20 lots in Grahamstown as well as farm properties. As can be seen from his letter (it was translated for publication in the Grahamstown Journal), he was better educated than most who were illiterate or just barely literate.

- Retief’s so-called manifesto has too often been accepted uncritically and without analysis of context. However, as we shall see, not all the assertions can be accepted at face value. It must be analysed carefully and critically.

- the complaint about the abolition of slavery and the process of compensation for a long time went unexamined and was repeated innumerable times as a factor in the trek (by both friends and critics).

- however, investigation revealed that slavery was not common in the eastern frontier areas from which almost all the Voortrekkers came. Besides, no new slaves could be imported after 1807 and the prices of the existing slaves had risen markedly. Very few (if any) Voortrekkers had ever owned slaves. Retief’s only known connection was that at one time he had borrowed money from an ex-slave woman!

- undoubtedly, there were grievances and complaints; even that early, they had established a catalogue and felt genuinely aggrieved (whether we think the grievances were as serious as they did is another matter).

Elements in the context

- a number of elements in the context tend to put these issues in a different perspective.

1. Shutting down of migration after 1780s.

- the earlier expansion had left some land not taken up behind the leading edges and the pushing back of the Xhosa in the early wars in the 19th C had made some land available (however, the 1820 settlers had also been assigned much of that); nevertheless, the voracious appetite for land among trekboers meant that by the 1830s, landlessness had grown. In effect, the on-going migration that had characterised the 18th C had been dammed up for almost 50 years. Thus, the Great Trek can be viewed as the bursting of the dam or as merely the resumption of the earlier process.

- this interpretation is supported by the fact that late in the 19th C when the problem of landlessness again reemerged in the South African Republic (Transvaal), a couple of attempts were made to organise new treks farther into the interior (into Zimbabwe or Angola). These efforts were blocked by Rhodes who wanted to ensure that it was the British Empire that got these areas. However, these aborted attempts to leave the Boer republic could hardly be viewed as attempts to ‘preserve the Afrikaner nation’ from extinction of assimilation.

2. Law forbidding migration north of the Orange River

- the rumours about the proposed treks beyond the Orange R. had been circulating for 3-4 years and the government had been considering what it could do in such a case. Again there were rumours that troops were to be sent to the drifts (fords) in order to intercept and prevent the treks. Retief and the trekkers were trying to forestall such actions.

- one of the ways to do this was to influence public opinion and sympathy. Many of the grievances were probably included to appeal to those Afrikaners who were not going on the trek. The slavery abolition surely falls into this category. The slave owners lived mostly in the western province area; none of them were joining the trek, but raising the issue was sure to get their sympathy.

3. Disobedience of lawful authority

- this is a sin in much of Calvinist tradition. Earthly authority and government is a surrogate for Divine authority; the definition of sin is rebellion against God. Thus, rebellion against earthly authority becomes by projection rebellion against God.

- the only exception is when the earthly government is so evil and wicked that disobedience and rebellion is justified. Thus, some of the arguments (not so much by Retief but by others in the movement) were designed to show that this was true of the British administration in the Cape.

4. Nationalist piety and sacrifice?

- this came to be the major assertion of Afrikaner nationalists in later generations. F. van Jaarsveld challenged this idea in the 1960s in The Awakening of Afrikaner Nationalism; he was roundly denounced for this heresy and there were demands that he be fired from his job in the Univ. of Potchefstroom for Christian National Education.

- he argued that a sense of ‘national identity’ was very little or not at all developed; Trekboers certainly recognised the differences in language, religion, etc. between themselves and the British;

- they had certainly developed a way-of-life and a set of values that were distinctive, but they were also significantly different from people of Dutch descent in the western province areas of the Cape. The latter regarded the Trekboers as rather wild, semi-barbarous frontiersmen and the sense of common identity was limited and incomplete; the westerners followed the Trek with interest and probably with a good deal of sympathy, but they certainly did not see the trekkers as the saviours of some mystical ‘nation’.

- even more significantly, the trekkers themselves had only a limited sense of unity; only severe danger could unite them. Mostly, their loyalties were to individual leaders. Repeatedly during the next 30 years or so, they fought and bickered with each other. They were not even united on religion; two new Reformed churches were started (they left the NGK behind in the Cape as it was too ‘liberal’ and required well educated clergy). One of these new churches (known as the ‘Dopper Church’) was very austere; even singing of hymns was regarded as too worldly and the only music allowed was the singing of psalms (this was the church of Paul Kruger).

- van Jaarsveld argued that a true sense of national identity did not emerge until after the British annexation of the South African Republic in the 1870s; then a series of national meetings to oppose the annexation and the successful revolt against the British—the ‘1st War of Independence’—did bring a sense of identity among the Boers of the Transvaal.

- it was only fully developed and confirmed in the period leading up to and including the South African War (‘2nd War of Independence’ for Afrikaner nationalists).

- certainly, I tend to put a good deal of emphasis upon ‘land hunger’; however, not all landless trekboers joined the migration and others, like Retief, were not landless so other factors were involved as well.

Significance of the Great Trek

1. Trek Boer ethos survived and continued to evolve

- this was very important in the later development of Afrikaner nationalism in the late 19th and 20th C, especially in the attitudes about what the relations between racial groups should be.

- this ethos affected others as well; British and other white immigrants to the South African Republic in the 1890s very quickly adopted virtually the same attitudes about the relations between the racial groups (i.e., whites dominant and non-whites very much subordinate).

2. The fate of most African peoples in S. A. was sealed.

- while conquest and complete subordination was not completed until after 1870, the domination of south Africa by white settlers was certain.

3. Britain became involved deeper into the interior of Africa.

- the British gov’t several times tried to limit its involvement and even pull back, but it could not remain aloof to what was happening;

- much of the time, the British tried to retain indirect control by controlling the access to the sea and especially controlling the supply of guns and ammunition to the trekboers in the interior.

- however, in the 1860s when it appeared that the Boers of the Orange Free State were about to defeat the Basotho, the British reluctantly were forced to annex the area and Moshoeshoe was finally able to achieve his goal of coming under the authority of the ‘Queen’. While missionary pressure and condemnation of the Boers was a minor factor, the major reason was the effects such a Boer victory would have—the Basotho would be driven out of Basotholand and down into the Transkei. The result would be further war and turmoil.

- later, in the 1890s as gold began to bring wealth and power to the South African Republic (not to mention a railway line to Lourenço Marques and an independent link to the sea), the British position in South Africa was being threatened—a major factor in why the South African War was fought 1899-1902.

 Return to

 Return to

 Mills home page

 History 316 lecture list