Boer Republics

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Boer Republics and Griqua States in Southern Africa, 19th century

The Boer Republics (sometimes also referred to as Boer states) were independent self-governed republics created by the northeastern frontier branch of the Dutch-speaking (proto Afrikaans) inhabitants of the north eastern Cape Province and their descendants (variously named Trekboers, Boers, Afrikaners and Voortrekkers) in mainly the northern and eastern parts of what is now the country of South Africa.


Although some of these republics were already founded from 1795 onwards during the period of Dutch colonial rule at the Cape, most of these states were established after Britain took over from the Netherlands as the colonial power at the Cape of Good Hope. Subsequently a number of its Dutch-speaking (proto-Afrikaans often called "die taal" the language) inhabitants trekked inland in 1835 in order to escape British administrative control in a movement that became known as the Great Trek. Several of these states were established after military defeats of the local population by the Voortrekkers/Boers by virtue of their technologically superior weaponry.

The Voortrekkers usually skirted the most densely populated areas, trekking into largely depopulated areas which were the result of the Mfecane or Difaqane initiated by the Zulu King Shaka in the 1820s. When the Voortrekkers encountered locally established groups/nations, they tended to opt to negotiate, turning to warfare only when attacked.

The Voortrekkers under the leadership of Piet Retief obtained a treaty from the Zulu King Dingane to settle part of the lands the Zulus administered or held sway over, but Dingane later changed his mind, killing Retief and 70 members of his delegation. Dingane's impis (Zulu warriors) then went on to kill almost 300 Voortrekkers who had settled in the Natal region.

After Andries Pretorius was recruited to fill the leadership vacuum created by the deaths of Piet Retief and Gerhard Maritz, he initially offered to negotiate for peace with Dingane if he were to restore the land he had initially offered to Retief.[1] Dingane responded by attacking the Voortrekkers; on 16 December 1838 the battle of Nacome River (later named the Battle of Blood River) occurred, during which 300 Voortrekkers survived and won a decisive battle against thousands of Dingane's impis.

The Natalia Republic was established in 1839 by the local Boers after Pretorius entered into an alliance with Mpande, the new Zulu king.

The territories north of the Vaal River in the Transvaal were officially recognized as independent by Great Britain with the signing of the Sand River Convention on 17 January 1852.[2] The territories and districts of the Transvaal were Potchefstroom, Lydenburg and Zoutpansberg, which united in 1857 to form the South African Republic.

Flag of the South African Republic also referred to as the Transvaal

The Orange Free State was recognized as independent by Great Britain on 17 February 1854. The Orange Free State became officially independent on 23 February 1854 with the signing of the Bloemfontein or Orange River Convention. The Orange Free State was nicknamed the model republic.

Flag of the Republic the Orange Free State

The New Republic (comprising the town of Vryheid) was established in 1884 on land given to the local Boers by the Zulu King Dinuzulu the son of Cetshwayo after he recruited local Boers to fight on his side. The Boers were promised and granted land for their services and were led by Louis Botha who would go on to prominence during the second Anglo-Boer War. This republic was later absorbed into the Transvaal/South African Republic.

States were also established by other population groups, most notably the Griqua, a subgroup of South Africa's heterogeneous and multiracial Coloured people. Most notable among these were Griqualand West and Griqualand East.

While some of these were mini-states which were relatively short-lived, some, especially the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, developed into successful independent countries which along with Britain were also officially recognized by the Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium and the United States.[3] These two countries continued to exist for several decades, despite the First Boer War with Britain. However, later developments, including the discovery of diamonds and gold in these states, led to the Second Boer War. In this war, the Transvaal and Orange Free State were defeated and annexed by the overwhelmingly larger British forces, officially ceasing to exist on 31 May 1902, with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging. A new British colony, the Union of South Africa, was subsequently established, in which the Transvaal and the Orange Free State became provinces along with the Cape and Natal.

List of Griqua States and Boer Republics in Southern Africa[edit]

Boer Republics[edit]

Griqua States[edit]

See also[edit]