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The Great Trek
Slave owners, especially in the rural areas, were deeply disturbed by the British emancipation of slaves (1834). Their farming were largely dependent on slave labour. They regarded slaves and the Khoe as their subordinates, a notion which carried religious conviction.

Particularly in the frontier territory, where land was still the subject of warfare with the Xhosa and the Khoe, notions of equality before the law and the emancipation of slaves were deeply resented. The trekboers felt that their land and lifestyle were God-given and earned by conquest, and they were not inclined to acknowledge laws set in London. They felt the British were on the side of the 'heathen' blacks.

However, the Boers could not ignore the British, since a large British presence was now established in the Eastern Cape. They also felt restless, there was a lack of new land for young trekboers especially with the persistent frontier wars with the Xhosa, which the British seemed unwilling to engage firmly.


Furthermore, British settlers were becoming more numerous and relations between the two communities remained cold. Many Boers were also deeply in debt. Almost 10% of the total white population left, heading north, beyond the Vaal river into the grazing lands beyond, and away from British control. They called themselves 'voortrekkers' (pioneers). Their justification was that the British were trying to place Khoe, blacks and slaves 'on an equal footing with Christians, contrary to the laws of God and the natural distinction of race and colour' (quoted, Worden pg 12)

The Great Trek has become the subject of many books (such as Mitchener's 'The Covenant'). As Afrikaner families with loaded wagons and their families and slaves gathered on the far side of the Vaal in 1836, they faced an uncertain future, but a confidence that God would give them success and a wealthy land.



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