South Africa: A Short History

By Arthur Keppel-Jones | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

THE history of South Africa, as of other countries, has been greatly influenced by geography. A few important features of South African geography must therefore be borne in mind by the reader.

The concentric lines of mountain ranges, roughly parallel to the southern and eastern coast, for long hindered access to the interior; and when these obstacles were overcome by the pioneer pastoralists, they in turn were cut off from the outside world. The main watershed of the Drakensberg runs up the eastern side of the country. The long rivers flowing westward from this to the Atlantic, the Orange and its tributaries, are shallow and sometimes reduced to little more than a succession of pools; the shorter streams running east are greater in volume, but broken by falls. All have sandbanks at their mouths. Thus no navigable river gave either entry to the country from the sea or a route to the interior from the coastal plain. The colonists had to move by ox-wagon over difficult country.

As the traveller goes north from the south coast, after crossing each mountain range he debouches on to a plateau higher than the last, till the great plateau of the interior is reached. In the eastern Transvaal a steep escarpment divides High Veld from Low Veld, while from the Witwatersrand (6000 feet above sea level) the drop to the Limpopo valley in the north is more gradual.

The interior plateau, whose altitude varies from 4000 to 6000 feet, is healthy; the winters are cold and the nights cool even in summer. But the pioneer trekking northwards, when he descended to the Low Veld of the eastern or northern Transvaal, encountered malaria and the tsetse fly. For most, therefore, the Transvaal High Veld was the furthest limit of the migration.

The direction of the trekking movement was influenced too by the rainfall. In the eastern part of the country, below the Drakensberg and for a little distance to the west of that great divide, this is from thirty to fifty inches, and similar figures are

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South Africa: A Short History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Introduction 7
  • Chapter I - The Half-Way House 11
  • Chapter II - Afrikaners 24
  • Chapter III - Slaves and Hottentots 38
  • Chapter IV - The Bantu Frontier 51
  • Chapter V - The Great Trek 65
  • Chapter VI - Diamonds and Englishmen 82
  • Chapter VII - The Imperial Factor 96
  • Chapter VIII - The Uitlanders 116
  • Chapter IX - Nationalism 145
  • Chapter X - Union and Disunity 153
  • Chapter XI - Race Relations 166
  • Chapter XII - Hertzog 179
  • Chapter XIII - War, Apartheid and the Republic 196
  • Short Bibliography 225
  • Index 227
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