Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Doubly Colonized

I had had a vague sense that South Africa and areas north had been British colonies, but then I also knew that Afrikaaners were of Dutch origin -- and I had never quite reconciled these facts. And then reading Mortals (not as good as Mating, but still an enjoyable 700 pages of my reading life) where the Boers show up all over the place my curiosity was piqued.

So...according to the 1960 Enyclopedia Britannica the Afrikaaners are descedendants of workers (servants) for the Dutch East India Company who were left at Cape Town starting in 1652. By 1707, there were about 1800 people of Dutch and German descent in the territory we now call South Africa. All Afrikaaners are descendants of these 1800 people (!). At one point about 200 French Hugenots came, but they were assimilated into the Afrikaaner culture, language and even pronounciation of names.

In 1795 England conquered South Africa (by this point Afrikaans had noticably deviated from Dutch). Things flip-flopped. In 1820 England had control and landed 5,000 settlers. The Afrikaaners were largely rural farmers, having stretched into Africa (up to Zimbabwe?). The English settlers lived in towns and had the backing of the Crown. The Afrikaaners rather objected to authority being wielded by the English. Starting in about 1880 there were successful movements for Afrikaaner autonomy...And here it becomes ridiculously complicated and I can't keep it straight.

You have this odd dynamic where the Afrikaneers colonize the indigenous African population and then they are all colonized by the British. In the same way, de-colonization takes place in two stages: first the British cede control, and then the Afrikaneers cede control. Are there other examples of "doubly colonized" countries? In particular, where the first colonizer remains a distinct group from the second colonizer with a separate national identity and (even) language?

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's much messier than this, by far--it doesn't just get messy when you get Afrikaner republics.

Basically you get a population of VOC managers and employees in Cape Town proper (Dutch East India Company) and then at an early date a population of freeboers, yeoman-type farmers who start heading into the interior. The local African population around the Cape are pastoralists called the Khoikhoi, who are a really different group than the Bantu-speaking societies well to the east of Cape Town (such as the Xhosa, Zulu, etc.). In fact, it was because the Khoikhoi were herders of cattle that the VOC set up the station at Cape Town in the first place--was a good way to service traffic to the East Indies.

So the freeboers moving into the interior keep picking fights with Khoikhoi--and the Khoikhoi also keep suffering appalling casualty rates from smallpox, etc., rather like Native Americans. You get a slave population that starts to develop in Cape Town proper of Khoikhoi and some people from the East Indies, and some of them get attached to freeboer households as laborers.

But the freeboers also establish trading relationships with local African rulers, both Bantu-speakers and Khoikhoi--the frontier prior to 1820 is a really messy place: occasional major wars or conflicts, lots of low-level violence, but also lots of surprising political alliances--Dutch-speaking freeboers even occasionally attached themselves to Xhosa chiefs as vassals or allies.

Then the British gain possession of South Africa, and they go through a cycle of pushing hard to expand the frontiers of colonial authority through conquest of Xhosa chiefdoms and then abjuring or rejecting further expansion and seeking peaceful accomodation. They also become increasingly committed to the abolition of slavery within South Africa, which many freeboers (but not so much Dutch/Afrikaans folks in Cape Town proper) react strongly against.

So some freeboers pick up and take off for the interior to escape British authority: these are the so-called "trekboers" and the so-called "Great Trek". The Great Trek runs smack dab into a largely unconnected situation of political and social chaos in the South African interior that goes back to the formation of the Zulu Empire under Shaka from the end of the 18th Century into the early 19th. In part, that's what lets the Afrikaners gain access to the interior--lots of fertile areas are relatively uninhabited for a brief period right around the Great Trek because the people living there have been caught up in various movements of refugees and armies and so on.

Add to that the British bringing settlers into the Eastern Cape (very far away from Cape Town) and continuing their back-and-forth movement between imperial expansion and retraction, and that's where you get to the messiness that you mention, because it brings them into conflict with the trekker republics in the interior. Add to that diamonds and then gold in the 1860s and 1880s...

T Burke

3:39 PM  
Blogger Isaac said...

Thanks. Yeah, I figured that a) I hadn't fully remembered my reading and that b) the 1960 Encyclopedia Britannica wouldn't capture the fuller story, being more interested in the official political power than actual power...

10:49 PM  

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