The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Afrikaners are white South Africans of predominantly Calvinist Dutch, German, French Huguenot, Friesian and Walloon descent who speak Afrikaans.

Afrikaners are also sometimes referred to as Boers, but many Afrikaners now view this as a derogatory term. Some settlers from other parts of Europe (e.g. Scandinavia and Britain) also joined the ranks of the Afrikaners. Non-Europeans (including Malay, Indian, Khoi and Bantu) make up around 5-7% of Afrikaner origins. The language however was greatly influenced by the Malayan slaves who worked in the Cape and developed Afrikaans out of the Dutch slang known as Kitchen Dutch. This language later came to be known as Afrikaans, with C. J. Langenhoven as one of the pioneers in having Afrikaans accepted as an official language.

Afrikaners are principally descended from white Calvinist settlers and refugees who occupied the Cape of Good Hope during the period of administration (1652-1795) by the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC) and the subsequent period of British rule.

The term Afrikaner encompasses disparate communities of white Afrikaans speakers. Originally it distinguished those Dutch speakers who saw themselves as local, i.e. "African", from those who still primarily identified with Europe; it was later used to distinguish between Afrikaans speakers and English speakers among the white population. Its earliest use dates from 1707 but was not widely used until after the Anglo-Boer War of the early 20th century. Prior to then, the various white Afrikaans speaking communities were known under different names. A significant number were known as Boers (farmers). The semi-nomadic/migrating farmers of the eastern frontier were known as Trekboers. Those who lived in the western Cape and did not trek eastward were known as the Cape Dutch. The isolated pioneers from the eastern Cape frontier who trekked / migrated into the interior en masse in a series of migrations later known as the Great Trek were known as Voortrekkers. A small number of Voortrekkers came from the western Cape as well.

In the 1830s and 1840s an estimated 12,000 Voortrekkers penetrated the future Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal provinces to put themselves beyond the reach of British authority, in order to escape relentless border wars, British colonialism and its Anglicization polices, as well as to ease pressure on an overcrowding frontier where land was becoming scarce. While some historians claim that this series of migrations, later known as the Great Trek, was caused because the Boers did not agree with the British restrictions on slavery, most Trekboers did not own slaves, unlike the Cape Dutch, their more affluent cousins in the western Cape who did not trek eastward and migrate or participate in the Great Trek. The vast majority of Voortrekkers were Trekboers from the eastern Cape who engaged in pastoralism. Nevertheless, the British promulgation of Ordinance 50 in 1828, which guaranteed equal rights before the law to all "free persons of color", was indeed a factor in Boer discontent, as is well documented by numerous contemporary sources; the various republics founded by the Voortrekkers while prohibiting slavery itself would all enshrine inequality by race into their constitutions.

The Great Trek was mainly the result of the "bursting of the dam" of pent up population migration and population pressures, as Trekboer migrations eastward had come to a virtual stop for at least three decades (though some Trekboers did migrate beyond the Orange River prior to the Great Trek). During the Great Trek they fought with the Zulus (after Voortrekker leaders Piet Retief and Gerhard Maritz, along with almost half of their followers, were killed by Dingaan and his warriors after initially signing a land treaty with them), who at the time occupied the areas the Boers were trekking into.

The Boers established independent states in what is now South Africa: the Natalia Republic, the Transvaal Republic (the South African Republic) and the Orange Free State. The English wish to appropriate the diamonds mines in the Boer areas led to the two Boer Wars of 1880-1881 and 1899-1902, which ended with the inclusion of the Boer areas in the British colonies. Canada has participated in this war being requested by its motherland. First concentration camps were built for women, the elderly, and children of the Boers and their black allies. A large number of the prisonners died under the British administration of the camps. Following the British annexation of the Boer republics, the creation of the Union of South Africa (1910) went some way towards blurring the division between British settler and Afrikaner. The black majority, however, was excluded from equal participation in the affairs of the State and country, except for the states which were self governed (Qwaqwa, Zululand, Ciskei, Transkei, Venda, Bophutswana) until 1994, owing first to the British colonial policies and then later to an Afrikaner-led political party's policy of apartheid, (the Afrikaans word for "aparthood" or "separation"), particularly under the National Party from 1948.

In recent years there has been an attempt by some Afrikaners to encourage the mixed race "coloured" population of South Africa, most of whom speak Afrikaans as their first language, to consider themselves Afrikaners. This has seen some success despite the history of exclusion under apartheid. However, the Afrikaans coloureds feel they have a different culture to other Afrikaans speakers.

Recently, some liberal Afrikaans-speaking South Africans have started rejecting the label 'Afrikaner', because they see it as an embarrassing apartheid-era label that wrongly implies a conservative, religious and Afrikaner-nationalist background.

There is a significant number who have continued to refer to themselves as Boers as there were many who were not co-opted or assimilated into the emerging Cape based Afrikaner identity which began emerging after the Anglo-Boer War and the subsequent establishment of the South African State created by the British. The indigenous Boer identity was internationally recognized with the Sand River Convention (which created the Transvaal Republic), the Bloemfontein Convention (which created the Orange Free State), the Pretoria Convention (which re-established the independence of the Transvaal Republic), the London Convention (which granted the full independence of the Transvaal Republic) and the Vereeniging Peace Treaty which formally ended the Anglo-Boer War on May 31, 1902 culminating in the British conquest of the Boer Republics.

The Afrikaner designation was used beginning in the 1930s as a means at "unifying" (politically at least) the white Afrikaans speakers of the Western Cape with their estranged Boer cousins of Trekboer and Voortrekker descent (whose ancestors began migrating eastward during the 1690s and throughout the 1700s and later northward during the Great Trek of the 1830s) in the north where the Boer Republics were established.

These un-reconstructed Boers have tended to view the Afrikaner designation as an artificial political label which usurped their history and culture turning Boer achievements into "Afrikaner" achievements. The western Cape based Afrikaners — whose ancestors did not trek eastwards or northwards and ridiculed the Great Trek of the frontier Boers — took advantage of the Boers' destitution following the Anglo-Boer War and would later attempt to assimilate the Boers into a new politically based cultural label. A feature which distinguished the trekking Boers from those who remained in the Western Cape was the Boers' resistance to colonialism (both Dutch and later British) and their determination to be independent while the Cape Dutch (as they were called) tended to be loyal to the colonial powers.


Notable Afrikaners

See also


  • Hermann Giliomee, The Afrikaners: Biography of a People, University of Virginia Press, 2003

External links

Last updated: 08-17-2005 13:55:35
Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13