chapter
20 Pages

The Emergence and Decline of a South African Peasantry

ByColin Bundy

This chapter discusses the history of African agriculture in South Africa, and particularly about the response by African peasants to economic changes in the late nineteenth century. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, most African people who were beginning to encounter white missionaries, hunters, traders, soldiers and settlers were still pre-colonial cultivators. Africans accumulated enough capital by transport-riding or other services to settle as farmers; peasants competed with white settlers at sales of Crown land. The reaction by Natal's Africans to changed economic circumstances also took the form of a rise in production in response to opportunities. Politically, by the end of the nineteenth century it was no longer held necessary in the Cape to have a 'buffer' class of African small-holders, and the policy of fostering such a class gradually gave way to one in favour of creating a uniformly small-peasant rural population.