European Colonization of Africa: War with The Indigenous Population

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Words: 1124 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Aug 1, 2022

Words: 1124|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Aug 1, 2022

The first European country to colonize South Africa was the Netherlands. The Dutch were looking for a place where they could dock ships that were on long voyages so that they could restock. The Netherlands' interest was aroused after 1647 when two employees of the Dutch East India Company were shipwrecked there for several months. When they returned to the Netherlands, they reported favorably on South Africa’s potential to be a good checkpoint for ships going on long voyages. In 1652, Jan van Riebeeck established a station at the Cape of Good Hope, at what would be present-day Cape Town, in the name of the Dutch East India Company. The colony had started to become a home to a large population of 'vrijlieden', also known as 'vrijburgers”, who were former Dutch East India Company employees who stayed in Dutch territories overseas after serving their contracts. Dutch traders also imported thousands of slaves to the blossoming colony from Indonesia, Madagascar, and parts of eastern Africa. 

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The eastward expansion of Dutch colonists ushered in a series of wars with the southwesterly migrating Xhosa tribe, known as the Xhosa Wars, as both the Dutch and Africans competed for the pastureland that was necessary to graze their cattle near the River. Vrijburgers who gained their own land and became independent farmers were known as Boers. The Boers formed amateur militias, which they termed commandos, and forged alliances with Khoisan (an indigenous group in South Africa) groups to repel Xhosa raids. Both the Boers and the Xhosa launched bloody but ineffective offensives, and useless violence, often accompanied by livestock theft, remained common for several decades. 

Then came the era of British colonization. The British occupied Cape Town between 1795 and 1803 to stop it from falling under the control of the French. Even though South Africa went back to Dutch rule under the Batavian Republic in 1803, the Cape was occupied again by the British in 1806. After the end of the Napoleonic Wars, it was given to Great Britain as compensation, and it became an integral part of the British Empire. The British began immigrating to South Africa around 1818. The new colonists were induced by the British to settle for many reasons, mainly to increase the size of the European workforce in Africa and to increase troop numbers in frontier regions against Xhosa attacks. In the first 20 years of the 19th century, the Zulu people grew in power and they had grown and expanded their territory under their leader, Shaka. 

During the early 1800s, specifically 1835, many Dutch settlers departed from the Cape Colony, where they had been subjected to British control. This was known as the Great Trek. The Great Trek was a movement of Dutch-speaking colonists up into the interior of southern Africa in search of a land where they could establish their own homeland, independent of British rule. 

The Boers founded the Boer Republics: the South African Republic, the Natalia Republic, and the Orange Free State The discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1884 in the interior of South Africa started the Mineral Revolution. This increased the economic growth and immigration in the area. The discovery intensified British efforts to gain control over the indigenous peoples. The struggle of the factions to control these important resources was an important factor in the relations between the Europeans and the indigenous population and also between the Dutch and the British. in 1879, the Anglo-Zulu War was waged between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom. There were lots of obstacles for the British in South Africa in their campaign to control it fully. Two of which were the presence of the independent states of the Boers and the Kingdom of Zululand and its army. Zululand defeated the British at the Battle of Isandlwana. Eventually, though, the Zulu lost, resulting in the Zulu nation being disbanded. 

During the First Boer War (1880–1881), The Boer Republics successfully resisted British attacks using guerrilla warfare tactics, which were well suited to local conditions. The British returned with more experience and greater numbers, and they had created new strategies in the Second Boer War (1899–1902). They fought well, but suffered heavy casualties through attrition; nonetheless, they were ultimately successful, and they annexed the Boer Republics. Eight years after the Britsh had won the Dutch lands in South Africa, and after four years of negotiation, an act of the British Parliament (South Africa Act 1909) gave nominal independence to The Cape, while also creating the Union of South Africa on 31 May 1910. The Union of South Africa was a dominion that included the former territories of the Cape, Transvaal, and Natal colonies, as well as the Orange Free State republic. 

The Natives Land Act of 1913 was passed and it severely restricted the ownership of land by blacks; only 7% of the land was owned by natives at that point. The amount of land that was reserved for the indigenous peoples was later increased. In 1931, the union was fully sovereign from the United Kingdom with the passage of the Statute of Westminster, which abolished the last powers of the British Government on the country. In 1934, the South African Party and National Party, who were two parties in the country, merged to form the United Party, seeking reconciliation between Africans and English-speaking whites. In 1939, the party was split over the entry of South Africa into World War II as an ally of the UK. 

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The National followers strongly opposed this. The National Party was elected to power in 1948. It sought out to strengthen the racial segregation that began under Dutch and British colonial rule. Taking Canada's Indian Act as a framework, the National Party classified all people into three possible races and developed rights and limitations for each of them. The white minority who were less than 20%, controlled the vastly larger black majority. The legally institutionalized segregation became known as apartheid. While the whites enjoyed the highest standard of living in South Africa, comparable to European living standards, the black majority was unfairly treated and remained disadvantaged by almost every standard, including income, education, housing, and life expectancy. The Freedom Charter that was adopted in 1955 by the Congress Alliance, demanded that a non-racial society be created and an end to discrimination be made a priority. On 31 May 1961, the country formally declared its independence and became a republic following a referendum in which white voters narrowly voted in favor of independence. The British-dominated Natal province was against the referendum. Queen Elizabeth II was stripped of the title Queen of South Africa, and Charles Robberts Swart became State President. In 1961 South Africa, pressured by other Commonwealth of Nations countries, withdrew from the organization, and later rejoined it only in 1994.

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European Colonization of Africa: War with the Indigenous Population. (2022, August 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 28, 2024, from
“European Colonization of Africa: War with the Indigenous Population.” GradesFixer, 01 Aug. 2022,
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