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Historical Background

The Dutch East India Company occupied the Cape Colony uninterruptedly from 1652 until the British takeover in 1795. The company's conflict with the indigenous Khoisan was exacerbated by its granting of farmland to company members who had completed their term of service. The Khoisan, who became indentured servants, were landless by the time of the British occupation. Slaves were imported from Asia and elsewhere in Africa throughout the eighteenth century. Briefly restored to Dutch rule in 1803, the colony was again brought under British control in 1806. Two events to which Dutch settlers reacted negatively were the British abolition of the slave trade in 1806 and of slavery in 1833. The latter precipitated the Great Trek, in which many Dutch (Afrikaner) farmers migrated outside the Cape Colony.

A "mineral revolution," financed by British capital, began in South Africa with the discovery of diamonds in Kimberley in 1868 and gold in Johannesburg in 1886. Later the British victory in the Boer War (1899–1902) brought the Transvaal and the Orange Free State under British rule. Natal was already a British colony. Collectively the four colonies formed the Union of South Africa in 1910.

Afrikaners, who suffered military defeat in the war, displayed intense anti-British sentiment as many of their farms were destroyed and their wives and children placed in concentration camps, resulting in a high mortality rate. Their efforts to increase their population contributed to proletarianization, precipitating their migration to cities for employment. They often became squatters alongside poor blacks. In 1928–1932 the Carnegie Corporation conducted a study of the "poor white problem" and made recommendations for improving the status of working-class Afrikaners. During that period, Afrikaans, a Dutch variant, became a written language. Members of the emerging Afrikaner bourgeoisie opened the first Afrikaner bank and insurance company.

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