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10-08-2015, 16:10

BANTUS, BOERS, AND BRITISH IN SOUTH AFRICA

Nowhere in Africa did the European presence grow more rapidly than in the south. During the eighteenth century, Dutch settlers from the Cape Colony began to migrate eastward into territory inhabited by local Khoisanand Bantu-speaking peoples entering the area from the north. Internecine warfare among the Bantus had largely depopulated the region, facilitating occupation of the land by the Boers, the Afrikaans-speaking farmers descended from the original Dutch settlers in the seventeenth century. But in the early nineteenth century, a Bantu people called the Zulus, under a talented ruler named Shaka, counterattacked, setting off a series of wars between the Europeans and the Zulus. Eventually, Shaka was overthrown, and the Boers continued their advance northeastward during the so-called Great Trek of the mid- 1830s. By 1865, the total European population of the area had risen to nearly 200,000 people. The Boers’ eastward migration was provoked in part by the British seizure of the Cape from the Dutch during the Napoleonic Wars. The British government was generally more sympathetic to the rights of the local African population than were the Afrikaners, many of whom saw white superiority as ordained by God and fled from British rule to control their own destiny. Eventually, the Boers formed their own independent republics, the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (usually known as Transvaal). Much of the African population in these areas was confined to reserves. The discovery of gold and diamonds in the Transvaal complicated the situation. Clashes between the Afrikaner population and foreign (mainly British) miners and developers led to an attempt by Cecil Rhodes, prime minister of the Cape Colony and a prominent entrepreneur in the area, to subvert the Transvaal and bring it under British rule. In 1899, the so-called Boer War broke out between Britain and the Transvaal, which was backed by the Orange Free State. Guerrilla resistance by the Boers was fierce, but the vastly superior forces of the British were able to prevail by 1902. To compensate the defeated Afrikaner population for the loss of independence, the British government agreed that only whites would vote in the now essentially self-governing colony. The Boers were placated, but the brutalities committed during the war (the British introduced an institution later to be known as the concentration camp) created bitterness on both sides that continued to fester for decades.

 

 

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