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Britain Takes Cape Colony 1795

Europe and North America were plagued by revolutions and wars in the latter part of the 18th century. Cape Colony, a distance Dutch territory in Africa, was largely insulated from all the conflicts. This would change when France took the Dutch Republic and tried to disrupt British trade in India during the Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802). Eager to protect its lucrative trade, Britain decided to take Cape Colony in 1795.  This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline with World History during that time.

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The Colonization of South Africa

Dutch sailors bound for Asia were the first Europeans to venture into the Cape Peninsula to buy food from the Khoi herdsmen and farmers. The number of Dutch ships that sailed to and from Asia increased in the 17th century, so the need for meat and fresh vegetables also spiked. This compelled the Dutch East India Company to send Jan van Riebeeck and several Dutch farmers to establish farms in the Cape Peninsula in 1652.

The Dutch East India Company established restrictions on the amount of land that could be farmed by each Boer (Boere for plural). The company’s directors also maintained that the Cape would only be a way station for their ships. The arrival of additional Dutch settlers with their Malay and West African slaves in tow put a strain on the Cape’s resources. French Huguenots and Dutch immigrants later followed the Dutch settlers. It was not long before disagreement sparked between the neighbors.

Despite the restrictions placed by the Dutch East India Company, a number of Boere and their families left the Cape Peninsula and pushed northeast in search of land. They were later known as “Trekboere,” and later became the ancestors of the Afrikaners. These hardy people believed that the land was theirs by right because they were “chosen” by God. This belief, however, had a dark side. Armed with muskets and a sense of destiny, Boer families managed to kill and displace the indigenous Khoi and San peoples in search of land. They later encountered the Xhosa people who fiercely resisted the encroachment on their land. The Dutch (and later the English) and Xhosa people engaged in the Xhosa (Kaffir) War between 1779 and 1879.

The British Occupation 1795

A map showing the extent of the Dutch Cape Colony in 1795.

Cape Colony remained a backwater trade and farming town while Europe and North America were engulfed in wars during the latter part of the 18th century. The American (1776) and French (1789) Revolutions made naval wars and blockades on both sides of the Atlantic common. In 1792, Britain, the Dutch Republic, and their allies waged a war against France (the Revolutionary War). After defeating the Dutch Republic in 1795, however, France renamed the territory “Batavian Republic,” and began to occupy it.

The defeat of the Dutch Republic in 1795 and France’s ambition to disrupt the lucrative trade in India alarmed Britain. To combat France, the British war ministers then decided to seize the strategically important Cape Colony to secure the Indian Ocean passage. Nine British warships were dispatched to Cape Colony in the same year. On August 7, 1795, defeated the Dutch militiamen in the Battle of Muizenberg.

British colonists occupied Cape Colony until the country’s relations with France improved. In 1803, Cape Colony reverted to the Batavian Republic after France and Britain signed the Treaty of Amiens. The peace of Amiens, however, would not last as hostilities resurfaced in the same year.

British troops once again invaded Cape Colony on January 4, 1806. They easily subdued Dutch, French, and native troops in the Battle of Blaauwberg on the 8th of January, 1806. The Dutch troops held out for another week, but their leader, Lieutenant General Janssens, knew that defeat was inevitable. He capitulated on the 18th, and he and his troops were sent back to the Netherlands soon after. The British occupied Cape Colony until the Dutch ceded it to Britain in the Convention of London in 1814.


Picture by: George McCall Theal, Public Domain, Link

Fage, J.D. A History of Africa. London: Routledge, 1998.

Omer-Cooper, J.D. The Cambridge History of Africa: from c. 1790 to 1870. Edited by John E. Flint. Vol. 5. London: Cambridge University Press, 1976.

Oliver, Roland Anthony, and John Donnelly Fage. A Short History of Africa. Sixth ed. London: Penguin Books, 1988.

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