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Imperialism and Colonialism- South Africa

Imperialism and Colonialism- South Africa

  • Dutch Colony:
    • The first Europeans to settle in South Africa permanently were members of the Dutch East India Company who founded a colony at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652.
    • With colonialism, which began in South Africa in 1652, came the Slavery and Forced Labour Model.
    • It remained a Dutch colony until 1795, and during that time, the Dutch, who were known as Afrikaners or Boers (a word meaning ‘farmers’), took land away from the native Africans and forced them to work as labourers, treating them as little better than slaves.
    • They also brought more labourers in from Asia, Mozambique and Madagascar.
  • British colony:
    • South Africa was a Dutch colony until 1795.
    • In 1795 the Cape was captured by the British during the French Revolutionary Wars, and the 1814 peace settlement decided that it should remain British.
    • Why British colonised South Africa?
      • After the Napoleonic wars, Britain experienced a serious unemployment problem. Therefore, encouraged by the British government to immigrate to the Cape colony, the first 1820 settlers arrived in Cape colony.
      • It was at strategic location (militarily and commercially) especially important to protect British colony in India. So out of strategic necessity Britain had to control the Cape, like latter she had to control the Suez by controlling Egypt.
      • South Africa was attractive because of the existing infrastructure. The British found the well established colony an attractive acquisition, so the Cape was very unlikely have been returned to the Dutch, unlike the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia).
      • Lord Somerset, the British governor in South Africa, encouraged the immigrants to settle in the frontier area of what is now the Eastern Cape to act as a buffer between the colony and the Xhosa tribes and to provide a boost to the English-speaking population.
      • Later, gold and diamonds became factor for holding and expanding British colony in South Africa.
    • The settlers were granted farms and supplied equipment and food against their deposits. A combination of factors caused many of the settlers to leave these farms for the surrounding towns:
      • Many of the settlers were artisans with no interest in rural life and lacked agricultural experience.
      • Life on the border was harsh and they suffered problems such as drought, rust conditions that affected crops, and a lack of transport.
      • Therefore many settlers left the eastern border in search of a better life in towns such as Port Elizabeth. The eastern border therefore never became as densely populated as Somerset had hoped.
    • The settlers who did remain as farmers made a significant contribution to agriculture, by planting maize, rye, barley etc. They also began wool farming which later became a very lucrative trade.
    • Some of the settlers, who were traders by profession, also made a significant contribution to business and the economy. New towns such as Port Elizabeth therefore grew rapidly.

Colonisation of Africa

  • Expansion of British colony:
    • Cape Colony had became the nucleus of the British Empire.
      • From this the British began to push northwards and eventually established a big empire after a series of long and severe conflicts with Dutch settlers known as the Boers and some of the native tribes, especially the Zulus.
    • In 1879, after the Anglo-Zulu War, Britain consolidated its control of most of the territories of South Africa.
    • The Dutch settlers became restless under British rule, especially when the British government made all slaves free throughout the British Empire (1838).
      • Under Dutch settlement, there was a shortage of labour, especially on the wheat and wine farms. But they did not want to spend its money on the expensive wages that European labourers demanded. So they depended on slavery.
      • The Boer farmers felt that abolition of slavery threatened their livelihood, and many of them decided to leave Cape Colony.
      • They moved northwards (in what became known as ‘the Great Trek‘) and set up their own independent republics of the Transvaal and Orange Free State (1835-40).
      • Some also moved into the area east of Cape Colony known as Natal.
      • But the Britishers would not leave them in peace.
    • First Boer War (1880–81):
      • In 1877, Shepstone annexed the South African Republic (or Transvaal – independent from 1857 to 1877) for the British Empire. The Boers protested, and in December 1880 they revolted, leading to the First Boer War (1880–81).
      • British Prime Minister Gladstone signed a peace treaty on 23 March 1881, giving self-government to the Boers in the Transvaal.
    • Role of Cecil Rhodes:
      • British kept following the Boers, trying to surround them with British territory.
      • In this attempt the most important part was played by Cecil Rhodes, the apostle of British imperialism in South Africa.
      • He dreamt of an empire from the Cape to Cairo in which Briton and Boer would live side by side under the British flag.
      • It was he who foiled the successive efforts of the Boer republics to extend their territory.
      • It was at his instance that a British protectorate was established over Bechuanaland, and the territory, now called Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in his honour, was acquired.
      • Second Boer War (1899-1902):
        • Rhodes was largely responsible for the outbreak of the Second Boer War, which broke out in 1899.
        • It was about control of the gold and diamond industries.
        • It was a long and hard war, for the Boers of the two republics (the Orange Free State and Transvaal) fought with great skill and tenacity and inflicted a series of reverses on British arms.
        • In the end they were overpowered by British and peace was concluded in 1902 by which the Transvaal and the Orange Free State were annexed to the British Crown and in 1910 they joined up with Cape Colony and Natal to form the Union of South Africa.
          • Reasons for unification:
            • Political factor:
              • At the close of the Anglo-Boer War in 1902, the four colonies were for the first time under a common flag, and the most significant obstacle which had prevented previous plans at unification had been removed.
            • Economic factor:
              • The matter of trade tariffs had been a long-standing source of conflict between the various political units of Southern Africa.
              • At the heart of the crisis lay the fact that the Transvaal was a landlocked economic hub that resented its dependence on its neighbours, as well as the costs it was incurring through rail and harbour customs.
              • Unification removed these problems.
  • Discovery of diamond and gold:
    • In 1867, diamonds were discovered at Hopetown and in 1871, more diamonds were discovered in Kimberley.
    • By the 1870s and 1880s the mines at Kimberley were producing 95% of the world’s diamonds.
      • Revenue accruing to the Cape Colony from the Kimberley diamond diggings enabled the Cape Colony to be granted responsible government status in 1872 since it was no longer dependent on the British Treasury.
      • The wealth derived from Kimberley diamond mining led to accelerating its population, and allowed it to expand its boundaries to the north.
      • More towns started up as a result of a concentration of diamonddiggers in certain areas.
      • A company, “De Beers Consolidated Mines” was established under the leadership of Cecil John Rhodes at Kimberley.
    • When gold was discovered in the eastern Transvaal, a similar process took place. New towns were established to accommodate the huge influx of people.
    • Mining magnates such as Cecil John Rhodes who both had interests in the diamond industry, also became involved in the mining of gold. The wealth they had accumulated at Kimberley was used to establish large mining companies.
    • Abundant, cheap African labour was central to the success of diamond and gold mining. The working environment of the mines was dangerous and brutal.
    • Since the miners had certain basic needs, such as food, clothes, schools, houses, medical care and furniture, whole industries grew in the mining areas.
  • Grant of self-governance:
    • In South Africa the grant of self-government was delayed in comparison with other white colonies like Australia, New Zealand, Canada because the situation there was complicated by the presence of the unfriendly Boers.
    • Not until 1872 was it given to Cape Colony and by 1907 the other South African provinces were added to the list of self-governing colonies.
    • Formation of Union of South Africa:
      • The Union of South Africa was created in 1910 as a dominion of the British Empire in terms of the South Africa Act 1909, which amalgamated the four previously separate British colonies: Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal, and Orange Free State.
    • In 1931 the union was fully sovereign from the United Kingdom with the passage of the Statute of Westminster, which abolishes the last powers of the British Government on the country.
    • In 1961, the Union of South Africa adopted a new constitution, became a republic and became the present-day Republic of South Africa.
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