Transvaal Colony

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This article is about the former British colony. For other uses, see Transvaal (disambiguation).
Colony of the Transvaal
British colony

1877–1881 (Suz.)


Flag Badge
Location of Transvaal, ca. 1890
Capital Pretoria
Languages Dutch(written)/Afrikaans(spoken)
Religion Dutch Reformed, Anglican
Government Constitutional monarchy
 -  1902–1910 Edward VII
 -  1910 George V
 -  1902–1905 Viscount Milner
 -  1905–1910 Earl of Selborne
Prime Minister
 -  1907–1910 Louis Botha
Historical era Scramble for Africa
 -  Established 31 May 1902
 -  Pretoria Convention 1877
 -  London Convention 1881
 -  Treaty of Vereeniging 1902
 -  Responsible Government 1907
 -  Disestablished 31 May 1910
 -  Union of South Africa 31 May 1910
 -  1904[1] est. 1,268,716 
Today part of  South Africa
Gold mines. Aerial photography taken by Eduard Spelterini in July 1911.

The Transvaal (Afrikaans, lit. beyond the Vaal River) is the name of an area of northern South Africa. The land originally comprised most of the independent Boer South African Republic, which had existed since 1856, despite two previous failed attempts by the British to establish supremacy. After the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902 most of the land of the captured state became the Transvaal Colony, and eventually one of the initial provinces of the Union of South Africa.


The Transvaal was colonised by Boer settlers who left the British-dominated Cape Colony during the 1830s and 1840s in what came to be known as the Great Trek. The emigrating Boers established several republics to the north, outside British control - after the British occupation of the former Dutch colony in 1795 and again in 1806. The Great Trek was encouraged by discontent with British rule, the economic changes caused by anti-slavery laws, lack of protection against raiding Xhosa bands, and Anglicisation of established Dutch traditions. Many autonomous groups, each with its own goals, set out. Some, moving north-east, 'behind' the Nguni societies (Xhosa and Zulu), established the first independent republic, Natalia. This was soon occupied by the British in 1843 via their outpost, Port Natal, on the coast. Two years later the voortrekkers established Transoranje, (1845, later the Orange Free State). Finally, the voortrekkers migrated further north and established a number of smaller republics across the Vaal river, in the area known as the Transvaal, later to be united as the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek (South African Republic), or ZAR.

The trekkers took advantage of the political vacuum left after the Zulu wars and their aftermath, and easily overcame the indigenous peoples. During the 1850s, the British made an agreement with the Boer republics, recognising the independence of the ZAR in what is now the Transvaal. However, in 1877 Britain annexed the ZAR as a convenient way of resolving the border dispute between the Boers and the Zulus. This also saved the Transvaal from financial ruin, as its government had little money. The Boer republic regained its independence in 1881[2] after the so-called First Boer War.

Beginning in 1885, the discovery of a tremendous lode of gold in the Witwatersrand caused the immigration of many foreigners (uitlanders) to the Transvaal. The economy of the Transvaal soon boomed. The wealth of the Transvaal state was bound to overcome the British-controlled, Boer-dominated Cape Colony, and it was speculated the Boers might eject the British from power in the region[citation needed]. Furthermore, the longer this new source of gold remained out of British control, the position of London as the centre of the world's gold trade was threatened. Using the ZAR refusal to grant Uitlander franchise as a pretext, the British therefore planned annexation of Transvaal, as a continuation of their seizure years prior of the former Orange Free State and the immense diamond fields of Kimberley therein. In 1895 foreign mine owners funded an attempted coup d'état known as The Jameson Raid. The financiers of the Raid were dissatisfied with the Boer's taxation and restrictions of business. The raid caused alarm among the Boers and resulted in massive armament, mainly from German suppliers.

Increasing fear of British designs on the Transvaal and the amassing of British forces on their borders caused the Boers to make an ultimatum to the British to decrease their forces in the region, and, when it was ignored, to war in 1899. The Second Boer War endured for three years. By the end of 1902 Britain employed 500,000 soldiers against a fighting force of approximately 64,000 Boers. Boer women and children were incarcerated in concentration camps and about 26,000 died of malnutrition, poor hygiene and disease. The British blockade and scorched earth strategy enforced through the entire Transvaal forced the Boer military commanders into submission. A defeated Transvaal was incorporated into the British Empire in 1902. The war also had immense effects on British policy domestically, within Europe and throughout the Empire. The Second Boer War made it apparent that the Empire was more vulnerable than assumed. In 1910, the Boer republics were joined with the Cape Colony to form the Union of South Africa.


The Transvaal Colony lay between Vaal River in the south, and the Limpopo River in the north, roughly between 22½ and 27½ S, and 25 and 32 E. To its south it bordered with the Orange Free State and Natal Colony, to its south-west were the Cape Colony, to the west the Bechuanaland Protectorate (later Botswana), to its north Rhodesia, and to its east Portuguese East Africa and Swaziland. Except in the south-west, these borders were mostly well defined by natural features. Within the Transvaal lies the Waterberg Massif, a prominent ancient geological feature of the South African landscape.


Cities in the Transvaal Colony:

See also[edit]

References and sources[edit]

  1. ^ "Census of the British empire. 1901". 1906. p. 176. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Stephen J. Lee, Gladstone and Disraeli. Routledge, 108

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 25°S 30°E / 25°S 30°E / -25; 30