The history of South Africa is marked by immigration and ethnic conflict. The Khoisan peoples are the aboriginal people of the region who have lived there for millennia. Black South Africans are believed to originate from the Great Lakes region of Africa in prehistoric times. White South Africans, descendants of later European migrations, regardthemselves equally as products of South Africa, as do South Africa'sColoureds, Indians, Asians, and Jews.
History of South Africa (1652-1815)
Although the Portuguese basked in the nautical achievement of successfully navigating the cape, they showed little interest in colonization. The area's fierce weather and rocky shoreline posed a threat to their ships, and many oftheir attempts to trade with the local Khoikhoi ended in conflict. The Portuguese found the Mozambican coast more attractive, with appealing bays to use as way stations, prawns, and links to gold ore in the interior.
The Portuguese had little competition in the region until the late 16th century, when the English and Dutch began to challenge the Portuguese along their trade routes. Stops at thecontinent's southern tip increased, and the cape became a regular stopover for scurvy-ridden crews. In 1647, a Dutch vessel was wrecked in the present-day Table Bay at Cape Town. The marooned crew, the first Europeans to attempt settlement in the area, built a fort and stayed for a year until they were rescued.
As the burghers, too, continued to expand into the ruggedhinterlands of the north and east, many began to take up a semi-nomadic pastoralist lifestyle, in some ways not far removed from that of the Khoikhoi they displaced. In addition to its herds, a family might have a wagon, a tent, a Bible, and a few guns. As they became more settled, they would build a mud-walled cottage, frequently located, by choice, days of travel from the nearest European settlement.These were the first of the Trekboers (Wandering Farmers, later shortened to Boers), completely independent of official controls, extraordinarily self-sufficient, and isolated. Their harsh lifestyle produced individualists who were well acquainted with the land. Like many pioneers with Christian backgrounds, the burghers attempted to live their lives - and to construct a theocracy - based on theirparticular Christian denomination's (Dutch Reformed Church) reading into eisegesis characters and plot found in the Hebrew scriptures (as distinct from the Christian Gospels and Epistles).
British at the Cape
As the 18th century drew to a close, Dutch mercantile power began to fade and the British moved in to fill the vacuum. They seized the Cape in 1795 to prevent it from falling into thehands ofNapoleonic France, then briefly relinquished it back to the Dutch (1803),before definitively conquering it in 1806. British sovereignty of the area was recognised at the Congress of Vienna in 1815.
At the tip of the continent the British found an established colony with 25,000 slaves, 20,000 white colonists, 15,000 Khoisan, and 1,000 freed black slaves. Power resided solely with awhite élite in Cape Town, and differentiation on the basis of race was deeply entrenched. Outside Cape Town and the immediate hinterland, isolated black and white pastoralists populated the country.
Like the Dutch before them, the British initially had little interest in the Cape Colony, other than as a strategically located port. As one of their first tasks they tried to resolve a troublesome border disputebetween the Boers and the Xhosa on the colony's eastern frontier. In 1820 the British authorities persuaded about 5,000 middle-class British immigrants (most of them "in trade") to leave Great Britain behind and settle on tracts of land between the feuding groups with the idea of providing a buffer zone. The plan was singularly unsuccessful. Within three years, almost half of these 1820...