South African Population: Afrikaners


Figure 1.--Here we see a modern Afrikaaner farm family. The photograph is undated, but we would guess about 2000.

The majority of the white South Africans are Afrikaners. They were formerly known as the Boers. The term "boer" is the Duch word for farmers. The Boers today are the descendents of the Durch who founded Cape Colony in southern Africa (1652). The Dutch settlers initially estblished a colony at Cape Town near the stratehic Cape of Good Hope to support shipping around Africa to Asia. French Huguenots (Protestants) fleeing religious supression arrived (1687) and inter-married with the Dutch. The strict Calvinism of the Boers and their conflict with the vast native population as well as conflivts with the despotic Dutch East India company developed a spirit of rugged independence in the Boers. The Dutch ceeded the Cape Colony to Britain (1814) near the end of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. Conflict with the British began almost at once, but intensified after the British freed the slaves that the Boers still held (1834). The nationality question was finally settled by the Boer War (1899-1902). After World War II (1939-45) the Afrikaners, as blacks were not allowed to vote, gained political control and expanded the already existing Apartheid system. Thiswas not ended until 1994 and Nelson Mandela's victory as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

The Boers/Afrikaners

The term "boer" is the Duch word for farmers. The Boers today are the descendents of the Durch who founded Cape Colony in southern Africa (1652). The Dutch settlers initially estblished a colony at Cape Town near the stratehic Cape of Good Hope to support shipping around Africa to Asia. French Huguenots (Protestants) fleeing religious supression arrived (1687) and inter-married with the Dutch. The strict Calvinism of the Boers and their conflict with the vast native population as well as conflivts with the despotic Dutch East India company developed a spirit of rugged independence in the Boers. The Dutch ceeded the Cape Colony to Britain (1814) near the end of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. Conflict with the British began almost at once, but intensified after the British freed the slaves that the Boers still held (1834).

The Boer Republics

The Boers decided to place themselves beyond British authority and about 7,000 intrpid pioneers emmigrated north in the Great Trek (1835-40). More Boer emmigrants followed and three states were created: the Orange Free State, Natal, and the Transvall. The Boers fought several wars with native populations, especially the Zulus and the British, who unsisted on their jurisdiction. The British annexed Natal to their Cape of Good Hope colony (1844), but recognized the independence of the Orange Free State (1854). The situation in the Transvall was more complicated. Britain annexed the Transvaal (1877), but after a war (1880-81) with the Boers agreed to a kind of semi-independent status. The situation was transformed by the discovery of gold in the Transvaal (1884). This renewed British interest as well as attracted large numbers of foreigners. Boer insistance on limiting foreign rights caused renewed friction with Britain. The abortive Jameson raid (1895-96) was one attempt to establish Brirish control, and one of the major precipitating incidents of the Boer War.

The Boer War (1899-1902)

The Boer War or South African War as it is sometimes called is today an obscure footnote in history. At the time it was a major turning point in history. Not only did it occur at the transition from the Victorian to the Edwardian era, but it helped to confirm the growing opinion in England that it was the rising power of Germany under the mecurial Kaiser Wilhelm II that posed a danger to Britain rather than the traditional English enemy--France. This was a major transition in English thinking that had enormous repersusions in the 20th century. The War also convinced many that major reforms were needed to modernize the Army. The Boer War brought the term concentration camp" to the 20th century. A more happy impact was indirectly the War was involved in the founding of the Scouting movement. The British casualties were much higher than anticipated and the civilian casualties were even higher. European public opinion was incensed and the British began to see their Empire in a new light. It also resolved the question of national jurisdiction in southern Africa.

Apartheid

After World War II (1939-45) the Afrikaners, as blacks were not allowed to vote, gained political control and expanded the already existing Apartheid system. Thiswas not ended until 1994 and Nelson Mandela's victory as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

Afrikaans

Many Afrikaans words were incorporated into the Dutch (and even English) language during and after the Boer Wars? In the Dutch boy scout movement a scout is a "verkenner", a rover a "voortrekker", a leader an "oubaas". Actually the American word "boss" derives from the Dutch-Afrikaans word "baas". Afrikaans is the Dutch spoken by the European, non-English speaking, settlers in Southern Africa, mostly Dutchmen, but also French Huguenots and Germans and eventually Coloureds (people of mixed ancestry) and Cape Malayans from Indonesia who were brought to Cape Town by the Dutch. The words "veld(t)" and "trek" now are fully incorporated into the English language. Afrikaans is actually an undeveloped 17th century Dutch, that however is inventing new words all the time. Television is "kijkkassie" (show box), refrigerator "ijskas" (ice box), etc. The language issue was one of the major issues that lead to the civil disobedince campaign that eventually led to the ebd of Apartheid in South Africa. Most young blacks refused to study Afrikaans in school and demanded to be taught in English.






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Created: August 13, 2002
Last updated: 4:07 AM 8/8/2004