THE Dutch calling station at the Cape of Good Hope was first occupied in 1795 in the interests of the British East India Company. The small population was mainly Dutch in nationality and Dutch-German-Huguenot by ancestry. In 1836-38 its more restless element trekked across the Orange River to Natal and across the Vaal River, partly because they were squeezed out by British settlers, partly because they resented the abolition of serfdom among Hottentots and the emancipation of slaves. Natal was annexed as a British Colony. Small quantities of gold were discovered in the Matabele country and in the Transvaal in 1867-73; diamonds were found in Griqualand in 1869 and the biggest gold reefs of the world in the Transvaal in 1886. The economic life of the barren and droughty interior was revolutionised. Meanwhile, there had been wars about land with the stubborn Bantu tribes, and an attempt in the seventies to federate South Africa led to a small British war with the Transvaal and the celebrated skirmish of Majuba (1881).

For the next twenty years the history of South Africa could be written as that of a duel between Kruger, the Boer President of the Transvaal, and Cecil Rhodes, the young Englishman who made 6, 000, 000 out of diamonds and gold and became Prime Minister of the Cape Colony. The Transvaal was hemmed in as England annexed Bechuanaland and coastal territory, while Rhodes annexed Mashona-Matabeleland (1890-93); the two territories were re-named Rhodesia. Rhodes had very far-reaching plans for the extension of British dominions during the general scramble for Africa. Impatience caused him to promote a plot in 1895 to conquer the Transvaal in the interests of the " Uitlanders " or foreign immigrants (mostly British) who had gone into the Transvaal to work in the gold mines, and to whom the Boer inhabitants displayed reluctance to give representation in their parliament. Rhodes' lieutenant, Jameson, against orders, invaded the Transvaal prematurely and failed. The incident was not unpopular in England, but it gave continental nations an excuse for loosing their accumulated dislike of their exasperatingly rich neighbour. From this incident, in fact, Anglo-German enmity dates. The Uitlander question led to war in 1899, an unexpectedly long and inglorious struggle. The Boers surrendered on very favourable terms in 1903, were given self-government in the Transvaal and Orange Free State in 1907, and in 1910 the Union of South Africa united them with the Cape Colony and Natal.