Cape Dutch

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For the architectural style, see Cape Dutch architecture.
For the language or dialect, see Afrikaans.
Cape Dutch
Regions with significant populations
Afrikaans, South African English
Protestant (Afrikaner Calvinism, Reformed churches)
Related ethnic groups
Dutch, Flemish, Frisians; Germans, French, Scots, English; Cape Coloureds, Basters

Cape Dutch are people of the Western Cape of South Africa who descended primarily from Dutch, Flemish, French, German and other European immigrants along with a percentage of their Asian and African slaves, who, from the 17th century into the 19th century, remained more or less loyal subjects of European (first Dutch, later British) powers. Meanwhile, their pastoral trekking kinsmen, the Trekboers, were migrating away from the Western Cape to carve out a distinct culture and dialect with a strong desire for independence.[1][2] The term Cape Dutch is believed to have been coined by Trekboers to show that the Cape Dutch did not share the Trekboers' culture and interests or desire for independence. The Cape Dutch tended to have not much affinity for their rustic Trekboer kinsmen, whose language, culture, and frontier lifestyle they sometimes deemed inferior.[citation needed]

The Voortrekkers (mainly descendants of Trekboers) embarked on a series of mass migrations caused by the invading British, later known as the Great Trek.

During the early twentieth century, the descendants of the Cape Dutch and the Boers of Voortrekker and Trekboer descent would collectively become known as Afrikaners. Although the term Afrikaner was used for both Boers and Cape Dutch the term was and still is rejected by the Boers to keep their separate identity. That term is based on the language they spoke, Afrikaans, which directly evolved from Dutch dialects with minor English, Malay, French and African influences. The Cape Dutch spoke a dialect called Cape Afrikaans or Western Cape Afrikaans, while the Trekboers and most Voortrekkers spoke a dialect called Eastern Border Afrikaans. The Griquas (a métis of Boer, Tswana and Khoi) spoke a dialect called Orange River Afrikaans.

The descendants of the Cape Dutch in the twentieth century were considered more "liberal" and internationalist, while their northern, somewhat estranged kinsmen, the descendants of Voortrekkers and Trekboers, were considered more conservative, republican and nationalist.[citation needed]

During the referendum of 1960 which asked voters if they wanted to exit from the British Commonwealth and adopt a republic in South Africa, many Cape Dutch descendants voted not in favour while most Republican Boer descendants voted in favour.

The Republic of South Africa was adopted on a 52% result of the referendum due to the popular support of the Republican Boer descendants.[citation needed]

The term Cape Dutch also refers to the early form of Afrikaans spoken at the Cape and also refers to a style of architectural design used in houses, farm steads, wine estates and public buildings of the 17th and 18th centuries in the Cape, particularly around Cape Town, but also in towns like Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Swellendam, Tulbagh and as far off as Graaff-Reinet.


  1. ^ Vail, H. Leroy (1989). The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa. James Currey Publishers. p. 26. ISBN 0-520-07420-3. OCLC 878976629. 
  2. ^ "Memorial Minute — H. Leroy Vail" (June 15, 2000) The Harvard University Gazette