Re-thinking the Great Trek : a study of the nature and development of the Boer community in the Ohrigstad/Lydenburg area, 1845-1877

Diderick, Justin (1995) Re-thinking the Great Trek : a study of the nature and development of the Boer community in the Ohrigstad/Lydenburg area, 1845-1877. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.

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From the late 1830s Boer settlers conquered and settled vast new lands outside the Cape Colony. Although they more than doubled the area of European domination, historians have categorised Boer society outside the British colonies as primitive and dismissed the Boer conquests as an abberation from the broader process of European ~pansion. Such a distinction is no longer tenable. This study, which focuses on the ObrigstadlLydenburg area, shows that the Boers were an integral part of European expansion in southern Africa. Settler expansion did not occur in a vacuum. Booming demand for commodities sparked economic growth across the sub-continent; the Boers were part of this process and consistently strove to produce for the region's expanding markets. In tandem with the expanding regional system, the Boer economy grew constantly. This was reflected in the centralisation of power in the Z.A.R. as Boer producers created formal political and administrative structures to further their economic interests. (A parallel process culminated in the Cape with colonists receiving representative government in March 1853.) This correlation between political and economic development was evident in the creation of a coercive labour system by the Boer state. Through their control of state structures, the Boers employed measures ranging from brute force to punitive taxation, legally enforceable contracts and pass laws to procure and control workers. It is important to note that the creation of a coercive labour system by the Boers paralleled similar developments in the Cape Colony. The speed with which the Boer economy expanded in comparison to the Cape, however, meant that stages in the development of an unfree labour force which had been chronologically distinct in the Cape coexisted within the Boer coercive system. Boer dependence on coerced labour made conflict with African groups inevitable. African groups in the eastern Transvaal had already been partly moulded by predatory economic forces emanating from the Portuguese settlements on the east coast since at least the 1750s. The arrival of the Boers in the 1840s greatly accelerated this process. Some groups were crushed, but others were able to obtain the means to resist Boer rule by interfacing with the settler economy. The economic forces which drove Boer settlement were thus not confined to the white settlers: Boer expansion was paralleled by the rise of African survivor states. The Dlamini, for example, built the powerful Swazi state by exchanging captives, ivory and cattle for guns and horses. Similarly, the Pedi, through the large scale expon of migrant labour, were able to acquire the means to challenge Boer authority in the late 1870s. Oearly then, the Boers 'Were not only representative of the wider settler social and economic order, but were acting in response to the same circumstances as the British settlers, Portuguese traders and African survivor states. It is thus impossible to continue to classify them as retrogressive and distinct from other groups in the region.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Great Trek, Boers, South Africa, History
Subjects:D World History and History of Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, etc > DT Africa > South Africa
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > History
ID Code:3426
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:20 Sep 2012 06:57
Last Modified:20 Sep 2012 06:57
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