chapter  2
27 Pages

The Politics of Free Enquiry in Colonial South Africa

The Cape of Good Hope was an outpost of the Dutch East India Company from 1652 until 1795. For most of that time, its political and intellectual life refl ected that dependent status. Written accounts of conditions at the Cape did not extend much beyond offi cial reports and the descriptions of visiting explorers and naturalists. ‘In all South Africa,’ according to L.M. Thompson, ‘there was nothing approaching an intellectual circle.’1 Political disputes turned on access to land and the right to supply ships docking at Cape Town. The ideas of the Dutch Patriot movement gave rise to a fl urry of political activity in the 1780s, but produced no lasting legacy at the Cape.2