King's College London
Online Exhibitions
I speak of Africa

The Boers and the British

The Kowie River as depicted in: Thomas Philipps. Scenes and occurrences in Albany and Caffer-Land, South Africa. London: William Marsh, 1827 [FCO Historical Collection DT2020 PHI]The Kowie River as depicted in: Thomas Philipps. Scenes and occurrences in Albany and Caffer-Land, South Africa. London: William Marsh, 1827 [FCO Historical Collection DT2020 PHI]By the 1820s the nature of British rule in the Cape was changing, becoming civil, rather than military, in character. The British government in London, facing the economic slump and political crises of the post-Waterloo years, saw assisted emigration to the colonies as a way of helping the poor and unemployed and thus reducing social unrest at home.

The establishment of British settlements in the eastern Cape would not only bolster the colony against attack by the indigenous Xhosa people but would also further the anglicisation of Cape society, countering the prevalent Boer culture.

In 1820 a programme of assisted emigration brought 4,000 people from Britain to the district of Albany, in the eastern Cape. Thomas Philipps, whose account of his first visit to the area is shown here, later became a magistrate there. He writes with sympathy of the Xhosa people (known then as ‘Caffers’, or ‘Kaffirs’, a derogatory term derived from the Arabic word kafir, meaning an infidel, and introduced to southern Africa by Portuguese and Arab slave traders).

As the administration of the Cape became increasingly anglicised, so Boer resentment of British rule increased. The abolition of slavery in 1833 and the right of the freed slaves to own land, the widespread presence and influence of missionaries and the growing pressure on agricultural land as the population grew – all these factors were to lead in the mid-1830s to the Great Trek, the decision by thousands of Boer farmers and their families, under the leadership of Piet Retief, to leave the Cape Colony and set off north and east in search of land.

ARCHIOS™ | Total time:1.2041 s | Source:database