British Empire
The rise of the British empire - Africa
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Correspondence in 1902 on the recruitment of Africans to work in mines
(Catalogue ref: DO 119/718)
  • For most of the 1800s the main issue in South Africa was competition between the Afrikaners and native African peoples for land. This changed in the 1870s when diamonds were discovered. The situation became even more tense when gold was discovered in the 1880s.
  • By 1902 Britain had taken over all of South Africa and its gold and diamond mines. The largest mining company was the De Beers Company, which was set up by Cecil Rhodes.
  • The workers in the mines were mostly Africans, who worked in terrible conditions.
  • De Beers and other companies needed a license to recruit labourers. They had to get the license from the main British official in the area, the Resident Commissioner.
  • This source shows the application for the license and the comments of the British officials on it.
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