History in Cape Town

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When the first Portugese explorers landed on what they called Cape of Good Hope, the area was inhabited by the San, a tribe of hunter-gatheres, and the Khoikhoi, semi-nomadic cattle keepers, collectively known as Khoisan. Bartholomeus Dias was the first to round the Cape in 1487, but preoccupied as he was with reaching the East he paid little attention to the Cape. In the following years the Portugese only used the Cape to take in fresh water. Attempts to trade with the Khoisan often ended in violence and the Cape was feared for its rough weather, so no permanent settlements were made.

It was only when a Dutch ship headed for the East Indies was wrecked before the coast that the first settlement was created. Originally the survivors of the ship wreck just built a fort to inhabit the year it took them to get rescued. This helped the directors of the Dutch East India Company realise that it might not be a bad idea to establish a permanent settlement at the Cape. They didn't intend to colonise the Cape, they just wanted a safe place for their ships to stock up on water, and fresh food. In 1652 Jan van Riebeek was sent to lead the small expedition that was to found the first settlement. He traded with the Khoisan for meat, built the first mud-walled fort close to where the later stone fort still suvives, and planted the garden now know as the Company's Gardens. Because the Europeans (mostly Dutch, but some French Huegenots as well) kept themselves strictly separated from the Khoisan, there soon was a labour shortage. This was solved by importing slaves from Madagascar, India, Ceylon, Malaya and Indonesia.

In the mid 18th century some of the settlers that weren't connected to the East India Company has started to drift away from the settlement to other parts of South Afrika. They were the first Boers to trek away. As with most European colonistions, this proved to be a disaster for the indiginous peoples of the Cape. They were driven away from their lands, killed in conflicts, or succumbed to new European diseases. The survivors were forced into little more than slavery. Because of the shortage of women the Khoisan women, like the eastern slaves, were also used for sex. In time these unions produced the basis of todays coloured population.

By the end of the 18th century, the Dutch power was fading, and the British saw their chance to seize the Cape. From 1814, the Cape was a British colony. They installed free trade and abolished slavery. This dissatisfied the Boers, which led to the Great Treks of the 19th century.

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