British Empire
Living in the British empire - Africa
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Government figures on the economy of South Africa, 1845
(Catalogue ref: CO 386/155)
  • This source was part of a package of information sent to the British government to help the government encourage emigrants to settle in South Africa.
  • The original European colony in South Africa began at the Cape of Good Hope, when the Dutch founded a trading post in the 1650s. Dutch farmers settled there from an early stage and were known as Afrikaaners or Boers.
  • Britain took control of the Cape in 1806. Throughout the early 1800s the Boers and the British extended their control of land in South Africa. This often led to conflicts with the Bantu, the name used to describe the many different African nations in the region.
  • This source shows that the Cape was developing rapidly in terms of its farming industry. The government hoped this would make it attractive to British emigrants.
  • Wages in South Africa were paid partly in money and partly in goods. This was very common in Britain at the time. The wage rates are similar to those in Britain, perhaps a little lower.
  • However, costs in South Africa (and the rest of the empire) were usually much lower. Emigrating to South Africa offered the opportunity for emigrants to gain large farms very cheaply. This would have been impossible for most of them in Britain.
  • From the 1860s onwards, South Africa became even more valuable to Britain as diamonds and then gold were discovered.
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