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English in the 19th century in South Africa


Cape colony
Cape colony

British forces twice occupied the Cape region, in 1795 and in 1806; in 1814 Britain was granted the Cape Colony in a treaty drawn up at the Congress of Vienna, at which European powers negotiated the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815). After 1820 thousands of British colonists arrived in South Africa and demanded that English law be imposed. English became the official language in 1822, Khokhoi workers were given protection under new labor laws in 1828, and slavery was abolished in 1833.

These measures were bitterly resented by Afrikaners and resulted in the Great Trek, in which thousands of Afrikaners migrated northward, some settling in Natal and others continuing east across the Orange River and north across the Vaal River. From 1835 to the early 1840s, between 12,000 and 15,000 Afrikaner families, accompanied by slaves and servants, left the Cape Colony because changes introduced by the British were intolerable.

As settlers moved across the country they encountered resistance from the Bantu-speaking people, and in particular from the well-armed Xhosa, who had been moving slowly south and southwest for hundreds of years and were also in search of land.

The Afrikaners and the Xhosa clashed along the Great Fish River, and in 1781 the first of nine frontier wars took place. For nearly 100 years, the Xhosa fought the Cape Colony settlers, first the Afrikaners and later the British.

The British also encroached on Xhosa lands, precipitating several of these bloody wars. In the Fourth Frontier War, which lasted from 1811 to 1812, the British forced the Xhosa back across the Great Fish River and set up forts along this boundary.

In 1818 differences between two Xhosa leaders, Ndlambe and Ngqika, ended in Ngqika’s defeat, but the British continued to recognize Ngqika as the paramount chief. He appealed to the British for help against Ndlambe, who retaliated by attacking Grahamstown in 1819 during the Fifth Frontier War. The Xhosa prophet Maqana Nxele emerged at this time and promised “to turn bullets into water.”

He led the Xhosa armies in several attacks, including the one on Grahamstown in 1819, and was subsequently captured and imprisoned on Robben Island. After this war the British made a futile attempt to declare the area between the Great Fish River and the Keiskamma River neutral territory. More fighting took place, however, until eventually all Xhosa territories were incorporated into the Cape Colony. "South Africa" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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