The Dutch East India Company decides to send French Huguenot refugees to the Cape

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Wednesday, 3 October 1685

On 3 October 1685 the Dutch East India Company in Amsterdam decided to send French Huguenot refugees to the Cape for settlement. The Huguenots were French Protestants who were members of the Calvinist Reformed Church that was established in 1550. From the mid 1500s until the mid 1600s, Huguenots were persecuted in France for their religious beliefs. Therefore, thousands of Huguenots fled to countries such as Switzerland, Germany, England, America, the Netherlands, Poland and South Africa, where they could enjoy religious freedom.

The Dutch East India Company encouraged the Huguenots to immigrate to the Cape because they shared the same religious beliefs (Protestant), and also because most Huguenots were highly trained craftsmen or experienced farmers.

In 1688 the first large group of French Huguenots (180), composed mostly of families, arrived at the Cape on board the Voorschoten. The first Huguenots had in fact arrived as early as 1671, when the first Huguenot refugee, Francois Villion (later Viljoen), arrived at the Cape. By 1692, a total of 201 French Huguenots had settled at the Cape of Good Hope.

References:
• Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau.
•  Giliomee et al. (2007), New History of South Africa. Tafelberg Publishers: Cape Town. Pg 60.
•  hugenoot, 'the Dutch East India Company in Amsterdam decided to send French Huguenot refugees to the Cape'  [online], available at: www.hugenoot.org.za [accessed 27 Septemper 2013]

Last updated : 03-Oct-2014

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011