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On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X


BERGH, J.S.. White farmers and African labourers in the pre-industrial Transvaal. Historia [online]. 2010, vol.55, n.1, pp.18-31. ISSN 2309-8392.

This article argues that the 1860s and 1870s represent an important transitional phase in the agrarian history of the Transvaal with regard to the relationship between white farmers and African labourers. Despite measures put in place by white settlers to secure labour, the availability of African labour emerged as a critical problem in this period and forced the Transvaal authorities to launch investigations into this matter. A number of causes can be identified. These include the discovery of diamonds on the southwestern Transvaal border in 1867, which created a huge demand for African labour and farm products; the emergence of markets in the towns and the transformation of production on white farms to more labour intensive, marketoriented farming. This situation was exacerbated by the inefficient application of labour stipulations; infighting between military officers and civil officials on labour matters and the presence of large semi-autonomous African communities in the outlying areas of the Transvaal, who were reluctant to provide labour. At least some of the factors that affected the labour demands of white settlers can also be traced back to the Cape Colony from which they had emigrated. African communities responded to the labour measures in various ways. For those in the central districts of the Transvaal migration appears to have been the most effective countermeasure.

Keywords : African communities; African labour; African response; agrarian history; discovery of diamonds; labour demands; labour stipulations; market-oriented farming; markets; Transvaal.

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