Amersfoort Legacy - Turning points

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Mineral Revolution

The 19th century is an era of revolutionary change in South Africa. The country experiences the mineral revolution which sets in motion the great wars on the military front, on the cultural front and the identity front. Key to understanding this period are the frontier wars and the discovery, during the 1860 to 1880 period, of gold and diamonds, and then finally, the conflict between the British and the descendents of the Dutch, the Afrikaners. This latter conflict comes to a head with the South African War of 1899-1902. Together these experiences shake up the country fundamentally. The frontier wars, taking place on the eastern seaboard with the Nguni-speaking communities in what is to become the regions of the Transkei and Natal, and also with seSotho speakers in the North and Northwest parts of the country, achieve not only the military conquest of the African people, but critically also the conquest of their ways of life. These twin forces, which open up routes of opportunity for the missionaries, come to impose British modernity everywhere in the country. Critically, and somewhat unexpectedly, while this experience is underway, less attention is paid to the schooling of the local people than their administrative incorporation into the state. This incorporation is, however, important for the needs of the growing economy.

Out of the series of wars emerges the single political entity of South Africa. The attendant systems of education that emerge during this period take their shape and character from the rapid experience of industrialization and the cultural conquest of the local people.

An allied experience during this period that should not be neglected is the relationship between South Africa and the British protectorates of Basutoland, Swaziland and Bechuanaland and the historically mandated territory of South West Africa. Significant about the period is understanding how strongly, with the exception of Lesotho, the educational systems of the region are tied up with the missionary and colonial experience and how significant these are in the challenges these countries have to confront when they become independent during the period from the 1960s to the early 1990s.

Last updated : 10-Mar-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 21-Jul-2011