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The British Era
(page 9)
The British Era - Conclusion
When the British arrived in 1795, Cape Town was essentially a 'Company Town', closely controlled in all aspects of life by the VOC. The rural areas were distant and largely independent of the town. Slaves were the backbone of the small economy.

In 1910 Cape Town was an imperial capital of a large and strategically important colony. It's population was heading for two hundred thousand. The abolition of monopolies and slavery had led to greater economic freedom, and liberalism encouraged a free society. It had a large and active commercial class, civil society and local political movements.

Slavery had been abolished and a highly complex multi-cultural society had emerged, stratified into widely differing classes and identities. Whites dominated the upper classes but whites were also present in the lower classes, and there were non-whites in professional occupations. Racism was on the rise and beginning to inform political policy, but was not yet the determining factor of Cape Town society.

A strong liberal tradition was established in the town in the first half of the century by the emerging British middle class. Their efforts led to the growth of many centres of education, religion and publishing, many of which continue to this day.

The middle class also established strong business institutions, several of which are still trading. With active imperial officials, they helped to push through programmes that created the modern city and its infrastructure. Their welfare work gave rise to charitable works and church missions that created a more compassionate society.

As self-government developed in the second half of the century the combination of emerging English chauvinism and Afrikaner conservatism led to a less compassionate and more overtly racist and prejudiced society. The discovery of diamonds and then gold, then the South African War created successive economic booms.

Workers came from rural areas and across the continent to find work. A significant black population began to grow. The benefits of these booms, however, were not shared, and the divisions of wealth became more extreme with slums growing around the city. On health grounds the first 'township' was set aside for blacks outside the city.
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Heritage Sections
· Culture ·
· Environment ·
History · Society
Personalities · Areas

In this period of Cape History:



Reform Movement

Afrikaner Reaction

A City Develops

Imperial Capital

The Rise of Prejudice

Boom Years

The End of British Rule


Bibliography & Contacts


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