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Boers of South Africa

Who were the Boers?

In 1653, a Dutchman called Jan van Riebeek established the first European colony in South Africa in Cape Town.

This colony grew and grew as more Europeans from France and Germany came to join the Dutch people. These people became known as the Boers. Boer is a Dutch word for farmer.

Boerfamily 1886

The Boers were quite different from Europeans back home. They kept their own identity and saw themselves as their own community, with separate ideas and a language called Afrikaans.

Flag Dutch East India Company

They did not identify with local African people either; those that had always lived in Africa.

They thought they were superior to Africans and began farming land that had belonged to African communities, like the Khokhoi. They moved further east and came into conflict with the Xhosa-speaking people.

The British arrive

The British Empire expanded to South Africa in 1815. It became a British colony. The British settlers decided to try to stop the wars between the Boer and the Xhosa people.

The British sent 5,000 British people to live in between these two communities. This was a disastrous act and it caused many problems in South Africa for years to come.

British people that were sent there soon moved to the towns because they didn’t do too well at farming those lands.

The British in the towns began ruling over the Boer and the Xhosa, treating the Boer like second class citizens and treating the Xhosa very badly.

The Boer did not like the fact that the British had pushed them out and were trying to control them. 12,000 Boer headed North-East in 1834 when they rejected their colonial masters.

British Arrive

The Boer Republic was on Zulu land

The Boer Republic was set up in Bloemfontein after their Great Trek (the big migration). However, this land was not empty as it first seemed.

This deserted farming land was only empty because the Zulu had recently conquered it and the original African farmers had fled.

Daniell Trekboer

The Zulus and the Boers went to war over the next 50 years but the British ruled over both of them. The Boers continued to resist colonial rule and resettling.

The Boers found diamonds on their land and the British wanted to take control for this reason, too.

There were lots of Boer wars between the British and the Boers. The Boers were fighting for their new riches and for control of their own land.

Trekboer Migration Map

The first concentration camps

After the second Boer War in 1899, the British set up the first concentration camps.

The British Major General, Herbert Kitchener (who was famous for his strategy in World War One), tried to stop the Boer by destroying all the land they live on. This was called the burnt earth policy.

The National Achives UK

He created concentration camps to stop people from supporting the Boers. 26,000 Boer women and children died in these camps.

Boers At Spion kop

Eventually, the British and the Boers come to an agreement, which resulted in the Union of South Africa in 1910.

However, it banned non-whites (80% of the population) from having any control of their own country. Things were still not equal in South Africa, especially for the black populations.

Green Point Cape Town Boer War Transit Camp

Quiz Time!

Who were the Boers?

When did they arrive in South Africa?

Why did they migrate?

quiz activity for kids
Why were they at war with the Zulu?

What was the Union of South Africa?

Ancient Africa

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