South Africa

Located at the southern tip of Africa, South Africa holds both an eventful history and a present that plays a large role in the world's stage.

So, let's learn about it!

Table mountain, Cape Town

History of the cape

Early inhabitants

Some of the earliest people living in modern-day South Africa are known as the Khoisan people (known by the first Europeans as the "Hottentots"). But between 300 and 400 A.D. they were largely displaced by the Xhosa, Swazi, and Zulu tribes (called the Bantu speaking people).

The first Europeans

The European contact first comes with the Portuguese in 1488. Their goal was the same as Chris Columbus five years later, setting up a trade route to the Orient. But whereas Columbus will sail directly across the Atlantic, the Portuguese were working their way around Africa. It had been a project taking decades, constantly sending out expeditions that kept probing further along the west African coast to see where it went.

Reaching the southern tip of Africa was hailed as a positive milestone in their quest, so the king called it the “Cape of Good Hope.”

But the Portuguese, along with the Dutch after them, didn't (at first) see much value in this part of the world. I suppose they thought of it in much the same way early American pioneers viewed the west. (In the west, the "Great American Desert" was a barren terrain to just get through.)

I imagine to these early navigators, the southern tip of Africa was just a barrier to get around on their way to the Orient.

That is until the crew of a Dutch ship was shipwrecked off the cape.

Before being rescued, they lived by farming and trading with the local natives. During this time, they realized that the location could be made into a farming community and provide supplies and a useful port for ships traveling between Europe and Asia.

In 1652 a dutch settlement was set up in “Table Bay,” the town would become Cape Town.

The people settling here, Dutch, French Huguenots, imported slaves, and others, formed a new people that called themselves Afrikaners. This was a new people to identify themselves as belonging to Africa.

The British

The British took over the region during the Napoleonic wars of the early 1800s, originally to “protect” it from the French. However, the British stayed on – much to the dismay of the Afrikaners. For some, the solution was to migrate into the interior lands. There these farmers became known as Boers.

This didn't cause anyone too much heartburn until diamonds and gold were discovered. However, the conflicts began getting nasty in a series of wars known as the Boer wars (1880 – 1902) that involved what some have called the first concentration camps (intended as refugee camps).


The last Boer war saw the British in firm control of the region. Then, in 1910, the Union of South Africa was formed. In 1931 it would become an independent nation from Great Britain.

The place itself

Cape Town itself has a moderate, stable temperature, averaging in the 70s year-round. That being said, the seas in the area can be a shipping nightmare due to storms.

Along the south and western shores of South Africa is a mountain range called the “Great Escarpment.”

In the interior, the country is level and dry.

Outside interests

The most significant income source for South Africa comes from mining; it is a miner's dream. Check out the list of minerals that get mined:

In fact, the largest diamond producer in the world, De Beers, operates out of South Africa. The founder of De Beers was Cecil Rhodes, who also started the Rhodes scholarship. He became one of the world's richest men in diamonds and an icon of British expansion, particularly in Africa.

The Rhodes Colossus (1892)

Currently, South Africa also provides tourism opportunities for people wanting to enjoy the nature and wild animals that roam freely.

Once a stop-over for ships bound for Asia, today's South Africa is now known for its natural blessings – both dug from below the ground as well as on the surface.

On the web

Travel videos

There are plenty of travel videos that give a sense for this nation down south. Here are a couple of links.

South Africa: A Shorthand History

This video shares a brief history of South Africa from pre-European contact to the present.

Solomon Linda&The Evening [birds] ( The First Version )

Most people are familiar with the classic song The Lion Sleeps Tonight (click here if you don't). But this song was first produced by a group called The Evening Birds in 1939. This was the South African group using Zulu words.

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