This podcast episode continues the story of the Scramble for Africa and European imperialism, specifically in South Africa. In the last episode, we looked at the beginnings of South Africa. This episode looks at the rise of the Boer republics, the first and second Boer Wars, the Anglo-Zulu Wars, and the discovery of diamonds in South Africa.

This episode is broken into two parts due to how much is covered.

Topics and Characters Covered In This Episode

Paul Krueger
Paul Krueger (front row center) was a leading figure among the Boers.
anglo-zulu war
The Anglo Zulu War revealed the mistaken arrogance which the British thought they could rule South Africa.
The British debacle at Majuba in the First Boer War demonstrated the arrogance which the British thought they could take South Africa with.
Cecil rhodes
At his peak of power, Cecil Rhodes stood as a colossus astride the continent of Africa.
Leander Starr Jameson the Jameson Raid
Leander Starr Jameson, a friend to Cecil Rhodes, led the ill-fated Jameson Raid. It was part of a conspiracy by Rhodes to take the Boer Republics.
concentration camp second boer war
After defeating the Boers in the Second Boer War, the British set up concentration camps where they places Boer women and children while they fought a guerrilla movement from Boer soldiers.


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Find more of our episodes on the History of Africa podcast series here.

The States of Colonial South Africa

In this week’s podcast episode in our History of Africa podcast series, we continued our look at the history of South Africa during the great scramble. I promised to provide some notes that give more insight and visuals on these distinct divisions within colonial South Africa. These notes provide an overview of the history of different republics of South Africa during the second half of the 19th century. Understanding this geographical layout of these states helps with insight into various historical events such as the Voortrek and the Boer Wars.

boer republics
The Boer Republics of South Africa in the 19th century. (Courtesy The National Army Museum)

Bechuanaland Protectorate

Technically, Bechuanaland was a protectorate and not a colony. The missionary John Mackenzie believed native populations of the region faced imminent danger from the Boers’ growing violence and territorial claims. Mackenzie pushed for the British government to provide a protectorate for the native populations where they could live without harassment from the increasingly assertive Boers.

In 1885 the British sent an expeditionary force to South Africa who formed treaties with various tribes and took over Bechuanaland as a protectorate for these tribes to live within. Ten years later, Bechuanaland was incorporated into the Cape Colony.


In 1966 Bechuanaland became the Republic of Botswana.

Cape Colony

The Cape Colony was the original Dutch colony established in South Africa to stock European merchants and traders moving by sea between Europe and Asia. The British assumed control of all Dutch interests in South Africa in 1815, including the Cape Colony. The Cape Colony constituted approximately half of what we know as South Africa today.

Growing prosperity led to increasing desires for independence among the people of the Cape Colony. In 1853 the Cape Colony was recognized as a British Crown Colony with representative government, regardless of race. In 1872 the colony achieved responsible government with the election of its own prime minister. The advancements in greater sovereignty for the Cape Colony resulted in more ambitious territorial expansions into the surrounding lands ruled by local tribes and conflict with the neighboring Boer republics. It also led to a backward movement regarding racial equality and inclusion.

The discovery of diamonds in South Africa increased the complexity of affairs. Cecil Rhodes became Prime Minister of the Cape Colony in 1890 and helped fuel British expansionary efforts through the Cape Colony into other parts of South Africa. This included the Second Boer War.

The Cape Colony remained under British control until 1910, when it became known as the Cape Province with the formation of the Union of South Africa.

The Orange Free State

The Orange Free State was one of two Boer Republics during this period of the great scramble. Its borders were defined by the British in 1848. Its name comes from the Orange River, which travels through the Orange Free State and was named after the Dutch royal family, the House of Orange. The British recognized the sovereignty of the Orange Free State in 1854.

Although the Orange Free State maintained good relations with most of its neighbors, it lost its independence after the Second Boer War in 1902. In 1910 the Orange Free State became part of the Union of South Africa.

The Transvaal

The Transvaal Republic was also known as the South African Republic. It was the most dominant of the two Boer Republics in South Africa during the 19th century.

The Transvaal was established in 1852 after the British agreed to recognize its independence. In the Transvaal, tensions between the British and the Boer began almost immediately and broke out into the First Boer War in 1880-81. Paul Krueger led the Boers. Through a series of military blunders, the British were defeated in the First Boer War and left the Transvaal in the hands of Krueger and the Boers. Complete independence was recognized in 1884.

Voortrekker woman and children monument a the Voortrekker Monument is located just south of Pretoria in South Africa.

The Second Boer War of 1899-1902 ended the independence of the Transvaal and all the Boer Republics. In 1910 the Transvaal was incorporated into the Union of South Africa.

In 1915 a failed Boer rebellion known as the Maritz Bellion sought to reestablish the Transvaal’s independence.

Natalia Republic

Following the Battle of Blood River, the Boers sought to establish their independent republic in the Natal region in 1839. That republic came to an end with British annexation in 1843. Many Boers of the Natal migrated to the Transvaal and Orange Free State. The Natalia Republic became known as the Colony of Natal at that time.

Natal boasts a large Zulu population.

Find more of our episodes on the History of Africa podcast series here.

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JB Shreve is the author of "How the World Ends: Understanding the Growing Chaos." He has been the host of the End of History podcast since 2012. He has degrees in International Relations and Middle East Studies. His other books include the Intelligence Brief Series. Regular posts and updates from JB Shreve are available at