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South Africa History

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History[edit | edit source]

In the 17th century, the southernmost point of Africa where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet became a desirable half-way haven for the Dutch East India Company which was trading with India. By order of that company in 1652, a few Dutch settlers at the Cape of Good Hope to established this half-way station so that fresh vegetables and fruits could be provided to prevent scurvy among the Company’s sailors. Emigrants from Holland were then encouraged to settle and colonize, but they were soon joined by settlers from other countries.

Even with this melting pot of nationalities, Dutch prevailed as the language of the Cape of Good Hope but it was tempered by the French and others into the more simplified speech that became refined into Afrikaans. Not only was this agrarian society bound by this more localized speech, but also by religion; with strong Protestant roots, they fellow shipped together under the banner of the Dutch Reformed Church.

From 1795 onward there were a few British residents at the Cape, many of whom were military personnel, but it was not until 1814 that Britain eventually gained formal possession of the Cape. Factors that prompted a substantial emigration of British settlers to South Africa 1819-1820, the most serious of which was the economic crisis in Britain following the Napoleonic wars which made emigration with promise of land and opportunity very attractive. Another was to settle the disputed eastern frontier of the Cape of Good Hope with a farming community to discourage the Xhosa tribe from crossing the colonial boundary. The British government also wanted to increase the English-speaking population of a recently acquired colony that was predominantly Dutch in its language and customs.

Hostility between British and Dutch settlers, known as Boers or Afrikaners, led to the Great Trek of 1835-43, a migration of Boers from the Cape who founded Natal, Orange Free State, and Transvaal. Britain seized Natal in 1843 but the other two territories became Boer republics. After the Anglo-Boer Wars in 1880-81 and 1899-1902 the British and former Boer territories were combined as the Union of South Africa in 1910. Then in 1961 South Africa became an independent republic and withdrew from the British Commonwealth.
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Timeline[edit | edit source]

1487 -A Portuguese explore led the first European voyage to land in southern Africa
1652 -The Dutch East India Company established a victualling station at the Cape of Good Hope, at what would become Cape Town
1814 - Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Cape Colony was formally ceded to Great Britain and became an integral part of the British Empire
1910 - The Union of South Africa is the historical predecessor to the present-day Republic of South Africa and it came into being with the unification of the Cape Colony, the Natal Colony, the Transvaal, and the Orange River Colony
1948 - The National Party was elected to power and it strengthened the racial segregation begun under Dutch and British colonial rule. The legally institutionalized segregation became known as apartheid
1961 - South Africa became an independent republic and withdrew from the British Commonwealth
1994 - South Africa transitioned from the system of apartheid to one of majority rule
Listen to the tutorial on "The South African Empire" by Dr. Anne Samson.

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