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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
South Africa

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to round the Cape of Good Hope (a feat achieved by Bartholomeu *Dias in 1488), but the Dutch were the first to settle there, under Jan van *Riebeeck in 1652. The Cape became of strategic importance during the *Napoleonic Wars; the colony was seized by Britain in 1795, and British title to it was confirmed in the peace negotiations at the congress of Vienna in 1814.

To escape direct rule by the British (who were opposed to slavery), many Dutch settlers, known now as the *Voortrekkers, made the *Great Trek north between 1835 and 1843 to settle new lands. The result was that from the 1850s there were two virtually independent Boer republics (the *Orange Free State and the *Transvaal) to the east and northeast of *Cape Colony. Meanwhile *Natal, on the east coast, had been settled by the British in 1824 and was annexed to Cape Colony in 1843; it became a separate province in 1893. In 1897 Natal incorporated Zululand, to the north, as the long-term outcome of the *Zulu War.

In the 1870s and 1880s the economy of South Africa was transformed by the discovery of vast deposits of diamonds (particularly at *Kimberley) and of gold (*Witwatersrand). The Transvaal held the bulk of these precious minerals. The arrival of numerous uitlanders (foreign prospectors and businessmen, of whom a majority were British) proved a new threat to the Boer style of life so forcefully preserved by the Voortrekkers just a generation or two earlier. The response of the Transvaal government was to welcome the new wealth but to deny all political rights to the outsiders who were creating it. This in turn provoked the parliaments in Cape Town and in London to reconsider the question of the lapsed British sovereignty.

These clashes of interest lay behind the *Boer War. At its end the Transvaal and the Orange Free State were crown colonies, like Cape Colony and Natal. In 1909 the four provinces together formed the Union of South Africa, with *dominion status as an independent country. With the introduction of *apartheid in 1948 South Africa became increasingly isolated within the *Commonwealth, from which it withdrew in 1961 after the white electorate had voted narrowly to become a republic.

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