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European Settlement
The First Years Cape Town Develops Simon v. der Stel
VOC Control Frontier Expansion Cape Town 1700s
Cosmopolitan Cape Town The Boom of the 1780s The VOC Legacy
    Bibliography & Contacts
The First Years

Jan van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape on the 6th April 1652 in command of a small detachment.

His orders were explicitly not to establish a colony, but merely to sell produce to passing ships. He could barter supplies from the Khoe and grow vegetables.

He established a small fortification and a company garden, but soon the demand for produce led to farms, slaves and a growing settlement. The occupation of land led to warfare with the Khoe.


Cape Town Develops

The growth of Cape Town began with a guesthouse and soon there were several taverns. By the time van Riebeeck left after 10 years, there were four streets, large farms and the name 'Cape Town' was established.

Warfare had broken the power of the Khoe, but the threat of European invasion rose, and the VOC began to build a stone Castle in 1665. It is still in use today.

Meanwhile the presence of slaves and the integration of the Khoe was creating a hierarchical, diverse society.


Cape Town Castle
The year the fort was completed, Simon van der Stel arrived to become governor. An ambitious and well educated man, he expanded and developed the winelands and the town.


van der Stels' home of Groot Constantia

By 1700, the Cape Peninsula and the winelands were widely settled and had been developed beyond recognition.

The VOC maintained a firm, sometimes brutal control over the town but provided little support for the community and stifled the development of a strong local society.


Tuynhuis - The Governor's Office

Farmers developed large and prosperous estates in the winelands. But as their sons ventured further and further from Cape Town a very independent 'frontier' culture developed.

Warfare ensued as they encountered the Khoekhoe and later the Bantu.


Frontier Trekboer

Meanwhile Cape Town developed in the 1700s, as an attractive Dutch-style town and an important port of call for sailors.

The town offered rest and amusement for the most refined and the roughest sailors, truly a 'Tavern of the Seas'.


Pock Art Picture of Hunters

The streets of Cape Town in the 1700s hummed with extraordinary cultural diversity.

VOC officials came from all over Europe, and other company employees from across Europe and Asia. Slaves and former slaves came from Asia and Africa. A mixed race community developed.


Cape Malays

In the 1780s Cape Town enjoyed a 'boom' decade. French troops were stationed in Cape Town 1781 - 1784 to defend the Cape from British attack.

The French troops built fortifications around the town, and their wages helped to boost the economy. Several important buildings were built in this era.

The VOC, meanwhile, was on the slippery slope to bankruptcy.


Dutch House on the Slopes of Table Mountain

The VOC never intended to establish a colony at the Cape, and although they imposed control they did very little to nurture a society, especially in the outlying farming areas.

Nonetheless, a complex, eclectic and multi-cultural population came to call the Cape 'home' and settlements were established far into the interior, and especially at Cape Town which became an important port.

Slavery and wide variations of class and wealth created the base for a divided society. Nevertheless a unique culture was developing from the meeting of East and West with its own language, cuisine and traditions.


Depiction of Slave and Dutch Family

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