Twentieth-Century South Africa

Twentieth-Century South Africa

Twentieth-Century South Africa

Twentieth-Century South Africa

Synopsis

This book is the first to look closely at the social and economic history underlying the political upheavals, and the establishment and fitful but dramatic dismantling of apartheid. It begins with the final colonial conquests at the end of the 19th century and ends with assessment of the democracy and redistribution of resources and power in the 1990s.

Excerpt

By the early 1870s, the area that became South Africa had been washed by successive waves of European expansion, notably the Dutch maritime empire of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and British imperialism in the nineteenth. Four settler states had been established. The original Cape Colony, which passed finally to Britain in 1806, boasted the largest area and settler population. It had recently acquired a parliamentary system and a measure of self-government. Natal remained a British colony. The Boer states of the Orange Free State and South African Republic on the interior highveld of the country struggled to maintain their independence from British and Cape influence.

The African people of the region had been deeply affected by colonization over two centuries. In the Cape, the San and Khoikhoi had been decimated and largely displaced; they survived as farmworkers or on mission stations and settlements around the peripheries of white control. The Xhosa on the eastern frontier and the Sotho on the highveld had been conquered and partly incorporated. Yet the colonial impact was uneven. Between the settler states and to their north a number of African polities remained, by reason of their power and size or their geographic position, relatively independent. The Zulu kingdom on the east coast, north of Natal, was the largest; the Swazi, Tswana, Pedi, Venda, Mpondo, and Thembu remained substantial chiefdoms. Within the next couple of decades, however, they were drawn decisively, with more or less force, under British or settler rule.

In the decades around the turn of the twentieth century, South African society was deeply moulded by the British imperial presence. Not only did imperial armies, together with the commandos . . .

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