South Africa/History

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The written history of South Africa starts in 1652, when a victualling station was established at the Cape of Good Hopeby Jan van Riebeeck on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. For most of the 17th and eighteenth centuries, the slowly expanding settlement was a Dutch possession.

After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, and a dispute arose over compensation after the abolition of slavery, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers or Voortrekkers) trekked north to found their own republics, the Orange Free State and the South African Republic during the 1830's. A Voortrekker incursion into the coastal area of Natal was repulsed by the Zulus under Dingane, brother and heir to Shaka. However, the Zulu empire would later be conquered by the British.

The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments, but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902). The resulting Union of South Africa operated under a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races - particularly after the electoral victory of the national Party in 1948.

The 1990s brought an end to apartheid politically and ushered in black majority rule, first under Nelson Mandela and later under Thabo Mbeki.