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South African History

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For most of 100,000 years the region we know of as South Africa was occupied by small groups of hunter-gatherers who were later replaced by a pastoral group.  The abundant rock art portrays the beliefs, rituals, outlook and activities of these people.  There appears to be no sharp physical distinction between these two groups: the Bushmen and Hottentots.  They worked together sometimes from necessity, sometimes to take advantage of mutual opportunities.  Pastoral farming was the predominant way of life in the dry inland areas where first sheep and the cattle were domesticated while in the south eastern area techniques were applied to grow crops such as millet and gourds.

South African History

When Europeans arrived in South Africa they came with three assets which weighed heavily in their pursuit of conquest: religious zeal, a capacity to utilize the technology of other and a hunger for wealth and vital resources.  While the Portuguese abandoned their attempt to colonize South Africa, the Dutch, English and French took full advantage of the region and its resources.  When the Dutch began to build forts and settles farms the indigenous population could tell they intended to stay and conflict was the result.

As with the European conquest of North America, Dutch attitude toward the native population ranged from admiration of the “noble savage” to fear of a dreaded enemy.  The East India Company (VOC) brought in slaves from other parts of their empire.  Like with the Native Americans, the political and social structure of the Khoikhoi clan could not resist the onslaught of the Dutch.

With the entry of the British into South Africa, distinctions developed between unequal legal groups with free blacks never able to break down the barriers.  When Europeans arrived they came with three assets which weighed heavily in their pursuit of conquest: religious zeal, a capacity to utilize the technology of other and a hunger for wealth and vital resources.  According to Thompson, “Under British rule, the autonomy that the farmers had enjoyed under Dutch East India Company was ending.” A partially successful attempt at reform occurred between 1807 to 1838.  While changes of disciplinary action in the 1820’s and representative government in 1853 by the British was established as well as freed slaves, there was lack of support from local employers.  Consequently, employers’ pressured the courts which lead to a curbing of the attempts at personal freedom and economic reform, leading to a great amount of repression.

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