For many western audiences, when we think of the history of South Africa we think of Mandela, apartheid, and…then our knowledge kind of fades off. In many ways, the history of South Africa is very similar to the history of the American west, with independent-minded settlers on a mission of divine destiny and clashing with native tribes who felt the land already belonged to them. Like the story of the American west, the history of South Africa is filled with legends and mythology built around independence and self-reliance among these settlers.

history of south africa
Jan van Riebeeck, founder of the Dutch Cape Colony in South Africa.

In other ways, South Africa confuses American audiences because the clash of peoples do not fit the categories we usually consider. Why were European descendants called Boers? Why were they fighting the British in South Africa? What was the difference between the people that South Africans defined as whites, colored, and blacks or natives?

history of South Africa
Zulu Warrior Utimuni, nephew of Shaka, the Zulu king.

This episode begins our two-parter look at the history of South Africa within the wider History of Africa podcast series. In this episode, we will look at the origins of European colonization in South Africa, the Boers, British control, and some of the larger conflicts between the Europeans in South Africa and the native tribal kingdoms like the Zulu. We will see the origin of terms like Boer and Afrikaaner.

history of South Africa
Voortrekker Monument

Learn more about some of the topics discussed in this podcast episode here:

history of south africa
The Voortrekkers

This podcast episode is available wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts for a limited time. After that our Patreon Insiders can get exclusive access here!

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