Segregation and Apartheid in Twentieth-Century South Africa

By William Beinart; Saul Dubow | Go to book overview
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INTRODUCTION:

The historiography of segregation and apartheid 1

William Beinart and Saul Dubow


THE MEANING AND CONTEXT OF SEGREGATION

Segregation was the name coined in early twentieth-century South Africa for the set of government policies and social practices which sought to regulate the relationship between white and black, colonizers and colonized. Many elements of segregation had precursors in the period of Dutch rule between 1652 and 1806, as well as in the nineteenth-century Boer republics and British colonies. 2 But it was only in the twentieth century that the ideology of segregation was refined and the reach of the system fully extended. This followed a lengthy historical process which saw the final conquest of African chiefdoms in the 1890s and the consolidation of the boundaries of the South African state in the aftermath of the 1899-1902 South African War. Modern segregation represented a response to the industrialization of the subcontinent, initiated by the discovery and exploitation of diamonds and gold from the 1860s. It arose out of the modernizing dynamics of a newly industrializing society and was therefore not, as some have suggested, a mere carryover into the twentieth century of older traditions of slavery, agrarian paternalism or frontier conflict.

South Africa differed from most colonial territories in Africa in that it attracted a high proportion of European settlers. The southern tip of the continent was not the first port of call for European mariners. Their presence was felt earlier in West Africa which had been the centre of trade in tropical commodities and slaves from the sixteenth century. But in West Africa, so an early Portuguese sailor wrote, ‘God has placed a striking angel with a flaming sword of deadly fevers, who prevents us from penetrating…to

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