The great trek( Afrikaans: Die Groot Trek) was an east ward and north ward migration away
from British control in the cape colony during the 1830’s and 1840’s by Boers (Dutch/Afrikaans
The migrant were descended from settlers from western mainland Europe, most notably from the
Netherlands, northwest Germany and French Huguenots. The great trek itself led to the founding
of numerous Boer republics, the Natalia republic, the Orange Free State republic and the
Transvaal being the most notable.
From the beginning of the 18th century the cape settlers expanded their territory towards the
north and the east. These settling movements were led by the Trek Boers, white farmers who
penetrated the hinterland looking for grazing land for their cattle.
The Trek Boers preferred the free and unrestricted life on their ox wagons and in tents to the
more protected existence within the realms of town administration. The price they had to pay for
their lifestyle was constant armed conflicts with native people. First the Khoikhoi successfully
resisted the conquest of their residential and grazing land.
And from the turn of the century it was the people of the Xhosa living to the east, who stood up
against the Trek Boers. Frequent skirmishes occurred, particularly in the Zuurveld in the east of
the colony, to the boundary of the great fish river. In 1779, the first of the ferocious Xhosa wars
In the town communities the danger of a confrontation was also growing. Here the opposing
parties were on one hand the citizens, aspiring to political autonomy, and on the other hand a
weak, corrupt and almost bankrupt colonial administration.
The town’s people demanded their independence from the colonial administration. In
Swellendam and Graaff-Reinet, the first republics were proclaimed, although they only existed
for a short time. The power struggle between citizens and administration ended with the landing
of British ships at the cape and the annexing of the colony to the United Kingdom in 1795.
The Reasons for the Boer Trek.
British occupation of the cape allowed Boers to penetrate further into the interior.
Boers dislike laws imposed by British in the Cape Province which gave greater equality to nonWhites races.
Abolition of slavery, the British administration at the cape forced Boers to free their African
Boers dislike the system of land holding which was introduced by British i.e. Boers were to pay
Misunderstanding between Boers stock farmers and British administration
Boers dislike the British government decision of using the English language as the language of
the government and in courts.
Boers wanted to be outside of the British government authority.
The Effects of the Boer Trek.
- Creating of two Boer republics, that is the Orange Free State and South African republic.
- Boers defeated black tribes on the way and took over their land and properties.
- Establishment of apartheid policy.
Development of hostility between the Boers and British colonisers.
- Africans were made property less labourers and squatters on Boers stock farms.
- African land was alienated i.e. taken by foreigners
- Intermarriage thus creation of Afrikaners.
BASIC ASSIGNMENT/ ACTIVITIES TO DO.
1. Explain the meaning of industrial capitalism
2. Explain the demands of industrial capitalism
3. Explain the roles f the agents of industrial capitalism in preparing Africa for colonialism
4. Outline the major causes of the Boer Trek in South Africa.
5. Write shot notes on the effects of the Boer Trek on people of South Africa.
6. What are motives of the British at the Cape?
7. Explain why the Boers managed to defeat the Africans in the interior of South Africa.
8. Mention five tactics used by British to occupy the Cape.