General South African History Timeline: 1700s

1700
The first "placaat" (ordinance or statute) restricting the importation of Asian slaves is promulgated.
Dlamini chiefdoms move south from Delagoa Bay and settle on land north of the Phongolo River; thereby forming the core of the future Swazi nation.
Free burghers are permitted to trade with local Khoi-Khoi chiefdoms. The latter suffer economic decline, a direct result of the terms of the trading system set by the Dutch.
At the advice of Cape Governor W.A. van der Stel, the Dutch colonial administration annuls its policy of forbidding the inland trek of migrant stock farmers or Trek Boers. This paves the way for unencumbered colonial expansion. The boundaries extend north and include Winterberg, Witzenberg and Roodezand, later called Tulbagh.
1701
13 March, Khoi-San raid more than 40 cattle of Dutch farmers at the Cape. (Wallis)
1702
Trafficking cattle and ivory at the Cape colony is firmly established. An expedition of ivory traffickers unsuccessfully attacks AmaXhosa for cattle. They lift cattle from Khoi-Khoi instead. This attack is the first recorded evidence of encounters of colonists with the AmaXhosa.
In an attempt to put a stop to cattle raiding and other forms of brigandage by Trek Boers, the VOC imposes a temporary ban on free trading with the Khoi-Khoi at the Cape.
1703
Licences are issued to stock farmers, allowing them to graze their cattle beyond formal colonial boundaries on the land of the Khoi-Khoi. This is an attempt to increase their productivity. It is estimated that whereas colonists owned 8 300 head of cattle and 54 000 sheep in 1700, by 1710 this number had increased to 20 000 head of cattle and 131 000 sheep.
1704
The free Trade Embargo against the Khoi-Khoi is dropped
1706
Adam Tas, representing farming burghers, draws up a formal memorandum of complaint, which is addressed to the Directorate of the VOC in Batavia. In the memorandum the signatories accuse Governor W.A. van der Stel and Company officials of illicit farming and trading, illegal landholding and setting up of illicit monopolies on the sale of wine, wheat and meat. The Governor orders the arrest and detention of Tas and 60 signatories. However, the VOC removes the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Chaplain and the Landdrost (magistrate) from their posts and all the land in possession of company officials has to be disposed of. In addition, the monopolies are rescinded. This meant that the VOC re-asserted the official Company policy with regards to prohibiting the involvement of Company officials in farming and trading activities and restricting them to their official administrative responsibilities.
1710 - 1720
A continuing surplus of wheat and wine results in a price slump with serious consequences for the wholly agrarian Cape economy.
1713
A group of Cape slaves desert the immediate Cape Colony and attempt to establish a life for themselves to the north-west. They are captured and severely punished. Thomas van Bengalen is hanged, while Tromp van Madagascar, the leader, is sentenced to death by impalement. Van Madagascar commits suicide in goal. The rest of the captured slaves have their Achilles tendons severed or their feet otherwise broken on the wheel.
1713
March, An outbreak of smallpox, introduced by crew and passengers of a passing ship, results in the death of 25% of the White population and virtual decimation of the south-western Cape Khoi-Khoi who have no resistance against this disease. The decimation of the Khoi-Khoi results in an acute labour shortage. Tracts of land become "ownerless". Colonial cattle farmers appropriate this land. Further outbreaks of smallpox occur in 1755 and most seriously in 1767, which registers three separate outbreaks.
1715
Trek Boers raid cattle of Khoi-Khoi as far north-west of the Cape Colony as Saldanha Bay.
1717
The VOC decides that future grants of land to settlers at the Cape should no longer be done on a freehold basis, but as loan farms called leningplaatsen. The farmers have to pay a rental to the Company for the use of the farm. However, approximately 400 freehold farms had been granted by the time that this system was changed. The owners of these farms are consequently unaffected by the new system of land tenure.
Estimates put the colony's population at 744 officials, approximately 2 000 burghers and just over 2 700 slaves. Hence the slave population forms approximately 50% of the total population within little more than 50 years of the founding of the refreshment station.
The Company (VOC) reinstates the ban on free trading with the Khoi-Khoi that it had suspended in 1704.
In an attempt to enforce its control over the maintenance of borders in the eastern regions of the Cape Colony, the Company establishes an administrative post at Ziekenhuys.
1721
March, An attempt to take possession of Rio de Lagoa (Delagoa Bay) for the VOC is launched by sending a company of soldiers to occupy the bay.
1728
Conflict between Trek Boers and the indigenous population escalates into a full-blown skirmish as the Khoi-Khoi are systematically and with violent means robbed of their land and livestock. Twelve Khoi-Khoi are killed by gunshot in this skirmish.
1730
Early slave market in Zanzibar
The VOC begins the systematic trading for slaves in Moçambique and Zanzibar.
Phalo assumes rule over the AmaXhosa. During his forty-five year reign power struggles between two of his sons, Gcaleka and Rharhabe, lead to a deep political rift in his kingdom.
A commando attacks a group of Khoi-San whom they suspect of having lifted cattle. Apart from six Khoi-San being shot dead by the commando, the commando takes a woman and three children captive. This is the first record of indigenous women and children being taken captive and forced into domestic labour by Dutch colonists as booty of warfare. It was to become a characteristic practice in the ensuing clashes and skirmishes between the Dutch and the indigenous population.
1730
December , The attempt to take possession of Rio de Lagoa (Delagoa Bay) for the VOC has failed and the garrison of 103 soldiers that occupied Fort Lydsaamheid since 1721, return to the Cape.
1732
In an attempt to contain the movement of the Trek Boers and to enforce payment of rent on the leningplaatsen, the VOC revises the land tenure system. It introduces the quitrent system, which allows the farmer land tenure for fifteen years. If after a tenure of the agreed fifteen years the farm is returned to the Company, the farmer is reimbursed for all fixed improvements made to the farm.
1734
The Company (VOC) sets up an administrative post in the east at Rietvlei. The Great Brak River is declared the eastern boundary of Cape colony.
1737
September, Georg Schmidt, a Moravian missionary, is granted permission by the VOC to establish a mission station for landless Khoi-Khoi. He establishes himself at Zoetemelksvlei, a military outpost beyond Caledon, but moves a few months later to Baviaanskloof, today known as Genadendal. This marks the beginning of Protestant missionary activity in South Africa.
1739
Cattle Raids
South-western Cape Khoi-Khoi take up arms against the Dutch in protest against the colonial seizure of their land. This is their last organised rebellion. After it is suppressed, the defeated Khoi-Khoi are absorbed as unskilled farm labourers into the colonial economy.
The Khoi-Khoi complain to the Castle that a group of farmers of the Olifants River have robbed them of their cattle. The matter is investigated and the Khoi-Khoi proved right. They are placed under protection of the Company and given back their cattle. The farmers are angry and ignore an order to appear before the Landdrost and the Council of Justice.
San (Bushmen) in the north become actively hostile and many farmers are forced to leave their farms. The acting governor, Daniël van den Henghel, raises a large commando against them, promising amnesty to all those who help him in the campaign.
1739
March, Under leadership of Etienne Barbier a group of eight armed horsemen, who were found guilty of robbing Khoi-Khoi of their cattle, fastens a document accusing the government of tyranny and stating that they would no longer pay taxes. They take advantage of the amnesty offered to those who take part in the commando against the San by Governor van den Henghel. Barbier, who however, remains in hiding and is eventually caught.
1739
April, Hendrik Swellengrebel becomes governor of the Cape.
November, Etienne Barbier, a French soldier in service of the VOC who has deserted and become leader of a group of dissatisfied farmers, is drawn and quartered (body cut into four parts) and exhibited along the main roads as a warning. He is the first rebel in South Africa. (SESA, v. 2, p. 174)
1742
Georg Schmidt baptises five Khoi-Khoi. This causes upheaval, as politically it is still not clear whether converts to Christianity from the indigenous population should be accorded equal civil and political rights as colonists. The Council of Policy therefore forbids such baptisms by Schmidt, citing the excuse that he is not an ordained minister. Two years later, in 1744, Schmidt leaves the Cape for Holland in order to be ordained, and hence be allowed to baptise Khoi-Khoi. In his absence no missionary activity takes place. He also does not return to the Cape.
1743 - 1745
Governor-General Baron van Imhoff inspects the Cape Colony. He changes the land tenure system to discourage migrant pastoralism among the Dutch border farmers, as the introduction of the quitrent system proves ineffective. In addition, he establishes the district of Swellendam, and also orders the establishment of Dutch Reformed churches in areas that are to become known as Malmesbury and Tulbagh.
1751
Ryk Tulbagh is appointed as governor of the Cape. During his reign from 1751 to 1771 he establishes the Colony's first library and a plant and animal collection in the gardens of the Company.
1752
Ensign Friedrich Beutler explores the eastern coastal region of South Africa with a team comprising a surveyor and cartographer, a surgeon, a botanist, a wainwright and a blacksmith. He returns to the Company (VOC) with descriptions of the Nguni inhabitants of the Keiskamma River region.
1753
Tulbagh initiates the codification of slave law.
1754
A census of the Cape reveals that its non-indigenous population comprises 510 colonists/settlers and 6 279 slaves.
Khoi-san groups attack and raid farms in the Roggeveld area.
1755
The second great smallpox epidemic breaks out at the Cape.
1760
Hendrik Hop and Willem van Reenen complete a successful exploratory expedition into Namaqualand as far north as Walvis Bay and Keetmanshoop. They discover evidence of copper in that region.
1762
Jacobus Coetzee undertakes an exploratory expedition north of the Orange River.
1765
The Meermin sails from the Cape to purchase slaves in Madagascar. Due to a mutiny by the slaves on the return journey, the journey nearly fails. After a battle on the ship between captured sailors and slaves near Cape Agulhas, only 122 slaves of the cargo of 140 reach the Cape.
1767
Drawing of Cape Town and the castle in 1764 by J Rach
The Cape frontier is pushed further eastward, beyond the Gamtoos River into the land of the AmaXhosa. Armed confrontations between the AmaXhosa and the Dutch colonists ensue.
Trek Boers reach the Swartkops River to the east and Bruintjieshoogte to the north.
The third great smallpox epidemic breaks out at the Cape.
1775
The death of Phalo increases the political tensions and strife within the AmaXhosa people. Consequently they split into two groupings: into followers of Gcaleka and of Rharhabe, two of the sons of Phalo.
The Council of Policy of the VOC extends the borders of the districts of Stellenbosch, Drakenstein and Bruintjieshoogte as part of its policy of expanding the Cape Colony.
1778
The Cape Colony's eastern border is extended to the Upper (Greater) Fish and Bushmans Rivers by decree of the VOC Council of Policy. This lays the foundation for a series of anti-colonial wars by the AmaXhosa and skirmishes that are to last until the end of the nineteenth century.
Gcaleka, the paramount chief of the AmaXhosa, dies. Ngqika succeeds him under the regency of Ndlambe, the son of Rharhabe. Rharhabe uses Gcaleka's death to extend his own power. This includes attempting to form an alliance with the Colony. In the ensuing strife Rharhabe and his AmaRharhabe are banished to the north of the Eastern Cape.
1778
September, Baron Joachim Ammena van Plettenberg, Cape Governor, leaves Castle with a small party of officials on an expedition to visit "the most outlying regions as far as they are occupied'. In his diary he records that he met the first Khoi-Khoi, two men with their women-folk and children, on the tenth day after their departure on the journey through barren and uninhabited veld.
1778
September, Governor van Plettenberg erects a beacon of slate 2m high, at the bay formerly called by names such as Bahia de la Goa, Angra das Alagoas, Bahia Formosa, Bay of St Catherine and various other, and names it Plettenberg Bay.
September, The governor reaches grassy plains where he finds farmers and their livestock. Continuing his journey, he notices that there are no Khoi-Khoi kraals left, but that they are living with the farmers on their farms. He records "that these distant border families are 'usually ... moral, reasonably skilled and ardently wished for' a minister and a landdrost". The farmers near the Sneeuberge complain about the "Bushmen- Hottentots" who steal their livestock and murder their herdsmen. (Muller, C.F.J. (ed)(1981). Five Hundred years: a history of South Africa; 3rd rev. ed., Pretoria: Academica, p. 78.)
1779 - 1881
The AmaXhosa drive large herds of their cattle across the border in search of grazing. Clashes between them and border farmers take place and by the end of 1779, many farmers have abandoned their farms on the Fish and Bushmans rivers. After two farmers' commandoes organised in 1779 and 1780 to follow the AmaXhosa into their own country, Adriaan van Jaarsveld is instructed to implement the establishment of the eastern border of the Colony (Greater Fish and Bushman's Rivers) by enforcing a relocation of all AmaXhosa chiefdoms living to the west of the Greater Fish River. Under the pretence of bringing the AmaMdange a gift of goodwill, Van Jaarsveld orders his commando to attack the unsuspecting and unarmed AmaMdange, killing many. Other chiefdoms are similarly attacked. In addition to defeating the AmaXhosa, Van Jaarsveld, contrary to his instructions, nets almost 6 000 head of cattle and divides them among the members of the commando and other border farmers who had suffered losses during raids by the AmaXhosa. Numbers for other livestock are not known.
This series of skirmishes and attacks goes down in history as the First War of Dispossession, or the First Frontier War, between the AmaXhosa and Dutch colonists. It is the first of a series of nine wars waged by various colonial administrations against the AmaXhosa in attempts to dispossess them of their land and livestock, to settle colonists there and to safeguard the frontier farmers against raids by the AmaXhosa.
1780
The Cape government declares the entire length of the Fish River as its eastern boundary without consulting the AmaXhosa, claiming most of the Zuurveld for the colonists. Since this claim could not be enforced against them except military means, it is only achieved in 1812. (SESA, p. 56)
1780 - 1783
War between The Netherlands and England hastens the end of the commercial and political influence of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), which had started to decline in the early second half of the eighteenth century.
1781
In an attempt to avert a British threat to Dutch control at the Cape, the French who are allies of the Dutch, station troops at the Cape. They remain there for three years.
The six-dollar becomes the unit of paper currency, gradually replacing gold and silver coins.
1782 or 1787
The chief of the AmaXhosa and brother of Gcaleka, Rharabe, dies near Dohne.
1785 or 1787
Shaka, the future king of the AmaZulu, is born.
1786
Future King Moshoeshoe born.
Graaff-Reinet, third oldest country town in the Cape colony, is established as a district and as the location from which the colonial administration implements its policy of separation of trek Boers and AmaXhosa and enforcing the border that they had drawn up. M.H.O. Woeke is appointed as first Landdrost.
Woeke estimates that between 1 July 1786 and 31 December 1788, the San murdered 107 cattleherds and stole or killed 99 horses, 6 299 cattle and 17 970 sheep. (Kruger, D.W. (ed)(1979). Geskiedenis van Suid-Afrika; verwerk en bygewerk deur D.W. Kruger; 3de bygewerkte uitg., Goodwood, Cape Town: NASOU, p. 102)
Moshoeshoe, founder and future king of the BaSotho, is born.
1789
Merino sheep, originally from Spain (though some believe that the breed originated in North Africa) are imported from the Netherlands. This marks the start of the lucrative wool industry in the Cape Colony. It is also a significant reason for ensuing battles for the land of the indigenous people, as settler merino farmers demand more grazing land.
The first overseas mail service in South Africa is inaugurated.
Ngqika (Gaika), who makes an unsuccessful bid for the supreme leadership of the AmaXhosa, defeats Ndlambe. By the end of the decade Ndlambe moves west of the Fish River, back to their ancestral land. Large numbers of AmaXhosa west of the border and cattle thefts by bands of marauders increase the anxiety of the farmers. However, raids by San remain the greatest danger for hunters and farmers.
Mzilikazi, future leader of the AmaKhumalo and later of the AmaNdebele, is born near Mkuze, Zululand. He dies in Ingama, Matabeleland in 1868.
1790
The Second War of Dispossession (Second Frontier War) begins as burgher commandos of the Graaff-Reinet area force AmaXhosa chiefdoms across the Fish River and pillage their cattle. The view of the burghers is that that they do not pillage cattle, but are taking back what have belonged to them before raids by the AmaXhosa. The war ends three years later in a truce that does not appease the burghers' demand for more land than already taken from the AmaXhosa.
1791
Burghers are successful in their demand for the slave trade to be open to private enterprise.
1792
Three ordained Moravian missionaries, Hendrik Marsveld, Daniel Schwinn and Christian Kuehnel, arrive at Baviaanskloof (Genadendal) to revive the work begun by Georg Schmidt in 1737. The missionaries find an aged woman named Lena, who has been a member of Schmidt's original congregation. Together the four people re-build the mission station. The VOC government, although more sympathetic to missionary activity than the government under which Georg Schmidt has served, nonetheless forbids the missionaries from erecting a church and a school. Religious and school instruction is given either in the homes of the missionaries or under trees.
1793
May, Honoratus Christiaan David Maynier is appointed the landdrost (magistrate) of Graaff-Reinet.
Frontier farmers, threatened by three groups, the AmaXhosa, Khoi-Khoi and San, are prohibited from pursuing cattle thieves on the advice of Honoratus Maynier. SESA v. 5, p. 53.
1794
Tuan Guru founds the Auwal Masjid (mosque) in Dorp Street, Cape Town, the first Muslim place of worship in Southern Africa
1794
December, The Portuguese ship São José is wrecked in Camps Bay, Cape, with nearly 500 slaves on board, of whom about 200 drown during the disaster.
1795
Maynier is driven out of Graaff-Reinet by burghers who accuse him of not dealing effectively with the "kaffir" problem, that is, in the view of some historians, of not siding with the demand of the burghers for the land and livestock of the indigenous population. Other historians support the position of the burghers, namely that they rebelled against the government because they were not protected against raids from the San and AmaXhosa and were vexed by the poverty and misery into which many of them had lapsed as a result of the policy of the Company. (SESA, v. 5, p. 295).They lose their short-lived independence because their settlements are economically not viable without the support of the Cape government.
With the first British occupation of the Cape (1795-1803), the rule of the VOC there comes to an end. General J. Craig is appointed Commanding Officer.
The British authority outlaws torture in the Cape Colony.
1798
VOC dissolved
The VOC is officially dissolved.
A fire devastates large areas of Cape Town.
The construction of the Cape Colony's first post office begins.
1799
The second Graaff-Reinet rebellion takes place after Adriaan van Jaarsveld was arrested on a charge of fraud. (Muller, C.F.J. (ed)(1981). Five Hundred years: a history of South Africa; 3rd rev. ed., Pretoria: Academica, p. 107.)
1799
31 March, The Reverend Johannes Theodorus van der Kemp, physician and missionary of the London Missionary Society, arrives at the Cape from the Netherlands. He begins his activities in collaboration with the Chief of the AmaXhosa, Ngqika, but establishes the settlement of Bethelsdorp for roving Khoi-Khoi in 1803.
1799 - 1802
Khoi-San join forces with the AmaXhosa and rise up in an unsuccessful but protracted rebellion in the eastern districts of the Cape in what becomes known as the Third War of Dispossession, or, Third Frontier War.