As the British presence in the area increased with over 5000
settlers by 1820, the incomers pressed east where they
encountered the Xhosa and ongoing warfare soon become
commonplace. As this timeline was unfolding so another one was
developing, the founding of a Zulu empire by Shaka Zulu with its
considerable fighting force of warriors.
the emancipation of slaves in 1834 and the British declaration
that all races were to be seen as equal, together with the
required payment of compensation to former slave owners, the
Boers as they were by then known, set off on what was termed the
'Great Trek' a breakaway from British colonial rule in favour of
finding land that could be used to establish an independent
state; a state where blacks would not be seen as equals.
What they hadn't realised was that the lands found had been
temporarily vacated by the Zulu. The ensuing wars ended with the
defeat of the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River and the Boers
began to settle in Natal declaring it the Boer Republic, however
the British, concerned that the feuding could spill over into
Cape Province, annexed Natal in 1843 bringing it under direct
British rule as a crown colony.
Squeezed by the British and native south Africans the Boers
moved further north leading to the founding of the Orange Free
State and the Transvaal, which was later to become the South
The 1850s saw Britain acknowledging the existence of the
Transvaal however the Boers soon after declared it a republic.
Britain has little economic interest in the Boer areas, so
allowed these events to proceed unchallenged however in 1867
something happened that was to steer the course of much of the
latter part of the nineteenth century, diamonds were discovered
at Kimberley suddenly making the Boer republics of sudden
This interest manifested itself in the British wanting to
amalgamate the Boer republics with their own territory at Cape
Province which had been granted self-governance in 1872. As
such, British Cape Province unilaterally annexed the Transvaal
The Boers retaliated in force in 1880 with the outbreak of the
first Anglo-Boer War in which they soon inflicted a heavy defeat
of the British on 27th February 1881 at the Battle of Majuba
Hill after which independence was declared as the
Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (South African Republic.)
Undeterred, the British, having by now seen off the Zulus in
Natal, forged ahead with flooding the area with cheap labour
triggering the Second Anglo-Boer war in 1899 which saw the Boers
defeated and the South African Republic and Orange Free State
made self-governing colonies of the British Empire.
The South Africa Act of 1909 saw a union of the colonies as the
Union of South Africa; a British Dominion territory but with
home rule and similar status as Australia, New Zealand and
Canada but only whites could be elected to parliament. The
anti-black stance was compounded by the Land Act of 1913 which
prevented blacks from buying land outside Cape Province.
following year the third Boer war, sometimes called the Maritz
Rebellion, broke out with former Boers refusing to take sides
with the British against the Germans in World War I, not least
because they were still nursing heavy casualties from the Second
The rebellion was quickly suppressed with its ringleaders being
fined and imprisoned. On release from prison those who had risen
up in formed the National Party, a party that was to go on to
dominate the history of South Africa until the freedom of Nelson
Mandela in 1990.
The subsequent history of Africa is taken up here.