Cape Town: A Potted History

When the Dutch East India Company sent Jan Van Riebeeck to establish a colony in Cape Town in 1652, he quickly turned it into an efficient waystation for ships rounding the Cape of Good Hope en route to the spice-producing lands of the east. Cape Town quickly outgrew its original purpose, becoming the economic and cultural hub of the Cape Colony. Indeed, prior to the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and the development of Johannesburg, the current location of the country’s stock exchange, Cape Town was the largest and most prosperous city in South Africa.

With the French occupation of the Netherlands during the French Revolution and Napoleonic War, Great Britain began to occupy and conquer Dutch colonies, including Cape Town, which was captured in 1795 and legally ceded to Britain in 1814. The conflict between Britain and the inland Boer Republics would later lead to the Second Boer War between 1899 and 1901, which was won by Britain, resulting in the entire area’s establishment as the Union of South Africa.

By 1929 general elections were being conducted under a system that allowed white men to vote while only a tiny number of black and colored men were so empowered, a privilege they were denied completely after 1939. The basis for this treatment lay in Afrikaaner and British perceptions of coloreds as a slave class (as they were descended from Cape Malays originally shipped to Cape Town to make up for the shortage…