Equal Subjects, Unequal Rights: Indigenous Peoples in British Settler Colonies, 1830-1910

By Julie Evans; Patricia Grimshaw et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
South Africa: saving the White voters
from being 'utterly swamped'

For the first seventy years of the nineteenth century, British governments had been reluctant to extend their involvement in South Africa beyond the coastal colonies of the Cape and Natal. By the 1870s, however, important economic and political developments in South Africa prompted Britain to act in consolidating its interests throughout the Southern African region. These developments had significant consequences for the Indigenous populations of the area, for the British colonies and the Boer republics, and for the remaining independent African polities which had not yet succumbed to colonial rule.


The effects of the 'mineral revolution' and
Carnarvon's federation scheme: from 1869

The situation which had obtained in most of South Africa for the middle decades of the nineteenth century began to change rapidly from the 1870s, with the impact of the 'mineral revolution', and Carnarvon's federation scheme. The 'mineral revolution', briefly, comprised the discovery and exploitation of the substantial diamond fields in and around what became the town of Kimberley in the northern Cape from 1869; and the exploitation of the even more substantial gold reef on the Witwatersrand ('the Rand' for short) in the southern Transvaal from 1886.

The 'mineral revolution' transformed the economic, social and political situation of South Africa over the next three decades. Major new towns – Kimberley on the diamond fields, Johannesburg and the towns of East and West Rand on the goldfields – rapidly developed. The men in charge of the new mines established a pattern of work practices which was to shape South Africa's mining industry, and much of its economy, in the twentieth century. The mines themselves became dominated by just a few well-capitalised large companies, which agreed

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