History of Johannesburg

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Farm where gold was first discovered in 1886.
Johannesburg around 1890.

The history of Johannesburg extends back thousands of years to when it was inhabited by hunter-gatherer peoples[citation needed]. Johannesburg is a very large city in Gauteng Province, South Africa. The city was formally established in 1886 with the discovery of gold and the Witwatersrand reef. After the discovery, the population of the city exploded, and Johannesburg became the largest city in South Africa. Today, it is a centre for learning and entertainment for all of Africa.

Prehistoric Era[edit]

The Johannesburg area is settled by Bushmen (or San), hunter-gatherers and Stone Age people. Over time, waves of migrants into the area established an Iron Age culture, until the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand in 1886[citation needed].

The Gold Rush[edit]

Gold was discovered in the Johannesburg area in 1886, setting off a mass migration of people from all over the world into the settlement to find gold. The new settlement was named after two officials of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republijk (ZAR), Christiaan Johannes Joubert and Johannes Rissik,[1] who both worked in land surveying and mapping. It is widely believed that the two men combined their common name to which they added 'burg', the archaic Afrikaans word for 'fortified city'.

Before, during, and after Apartheid[edit]

Johannesburg was initially controlled from Pretoria, the government capital of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republijk ZAR, or Transvaal Republic. The town was initially a small prospecting settlement to which people flocked from all regions of the country and the world, including such as the United Kingdom, Europe and North America.

As a result of efforts to control the rich resources, tensions developed between the foreigners and the ZAR government and culminating in the South African War (1899–1902). The British government applied scorched-earth techniques which included the burning of crops and killing of livestock. Thousands of Africans and Boer women and children were forcibly moved from their land into concentration camps, where some 40,000 people perished.

In 1902, ZAR was annexed by the British Empire and the Peace of Vereeniging was signed. The South African War left the bulk of the Transvaal population homeless, poor and destitute and paving the way for urbanization, cheap labour and the extensive control of mining rights by foreigners.

During 1910, Lord Milner, governor of the Union government which was part of the British Commonwealth, instituted Land Alienation Acts which resulted in more rural blacks forced to leave for the mining hub in search of employment.

After the National Party took power in 1948, it instituted the Group Areas Act and forcibly moved black population groups out of inner Johannesburg areas, such as Sophiatown, to the newly developed Soweto, a name derived from South West Townships. Today the city of Soweto has more than 1 million inhabitants. It has shopping malls, clinics and the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, the largest acute care hospital in the world, which serves ±1.5 million people and provides specialist treatment to the country as well as to surrounding African states.

One of the most famous victims of the 1976 Soweto march, Hector Pieterson, was commemorated with a large Museum dedicated to his memory, in Soweto.

Today, Johannesburg suburbs are integrated and multiracial. Inner city crime and neglect have resulted in the large-scale migration of businesses and commerce away from the Central Business District to the more affluent northern suburbs such as Houghton and Parktown, and to northern cities such as Sandton, Midrand and Pretoria (white flight).

See also[edit]

References[edit]