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History

Southern Africa to the 1870s

- The Mfecane -

- Boer Trek and Boer Republics -

- Discovery of Mineral Weath -

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In the 18th century Sotho and Tswana states emerged on the grasslands south of the Limpopo River. As was the case with the earlier Toutswe states of eastern Botswana, cattle were an important source of power and wealth, and conflict between peoples over cattle ownership was a regular feature of 18th-century life. Across much of southern Africa population was still relatively sparse. In this setting, political change was fluid and ongoing: Dynastic clashes and disputes over cattle often led to the breakup of states and the establishment of new ones.

In the Cape of Good Hope region, the spread of Dutch-speaking settlers known as Boers (ancestors of South Africa’s modern Afrikaners) had largely been halted in the east by effective resistance from Xhosa herders and farmers who were themselves eager to expand their chiefdoms westward. The strategic position of the Cape to world sea trade, however, was to draw it into inter-European conflicts. The British seized the Cape from the Dutch permanently in 1806 (after having first occupied it from 1795 to 1803), adding a new dimension to European influence in South Africa.

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