History of South Africa in Brief

History of South Africa in Brief – Guide 2024

The history of South Africa is important to understand the past with a brief summary South African culture of this fascinating land, and of thepresent and the cradles of humanity, the history of South Africa has its roots in prehistory, reaching its “discovery” in 1648, from the Cape of Good Hope. Moving on from colonization, the wars of the Boers and thewith important historical figures, South African history is rich and controversial. Discovering it through this summary will allow us to better understand its culture and population, better preparing ourselves for our trip to South Africa!apartheid 

The History of South Africa

To understand the present it is important to know the past . So let’s go and see, thanks to asummary the history of South Africa, as difficult as it is to talk about it in short. The South African people have always considered themselves unique, above all due to their colonial past and of the period ofracial segregation. Then arriving at the triumph of the country’sdemocracy passing from apartheid. The legacy of its historical legacy is still seen in recent times as an obstacle to a true and consolidated national unity of the Republic of South Africa. From its “discovery” in 1652 to the beginning of the exploitation of the deposits of gold and diamonds in the Transvaal region, leading to conflicts between Dutch and English, thus starting the Anglo-Boer Wars.

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Following the English victory, in 1910 the English colony was founded on the Union of South Africa, thus initiating maneuvers and laws that led to segregation. This led to apartheid, which intensified during the 1960s, establishing homelands. This legislative system remained until 1990, even when in 1961 the Union exited the Commonwealth, establishing the Republic of South Africa. In 1994, Nelson Mandela won the elections, becoming the first black president in South African history, seeking to reunify the people of the country. More than 20 years after the abolition of segregationist laws, today South Africa is still trying to achievesocial equality. Furthermore, thanks to its magnificent landscapes and its multi-ethnic cities, the country is an increasingly popular destination for travelers from all over the world.

The phases of South African history

Period Epochs Historical
Prehistoric age 3 million years ago – 1,000 BC
South African Antiquity 1,000 BC – 10th century
Middle Ages 1170 – 1488
Dutch colonization 1488 – 1795
British colonization, Boer Republics 1806 – 1907
Independence of South Africa 1910 – 1948
Apartheid 1948 – 1991
Transition 1991 – 1994
Republic of South Africa 1994 – …

South African prehistory

Thanks to its past, South Africa is considered the cradle of the history of humanity. In fact, many fossils are found in the area, especially in the Transvaal region . The main archaeological sites relating to this historical period are the makapansgat, Kromdraai and Sterkfontein caves. Here, in fact, they found traces of australopithecines from 3 million years ago.

Here, moreover, they found some of the most important hominid fossils ever, such as the skeleton of Little Foot, the Tanug Child and the Lady Ples.sapiens, up to Homo ofevolution. Thanks to the discoveries made in South Africa, in fact, it has been possible to retrace the


About 10,000 years ago, during the short history of South Africa, the Bushmen, also known as . rock paintings have come down to us from this people, still visible today in many archaeological sites in the country. The Hottentots, a people of breeders called Khoikhoi, appeared about 2,000 years ago does. Between the 5th and 3rd century BC, after a wave of migration they arrived from the territory on the river Limpopo i Bantu, which include the Xhosa, they subsequently also moved to various regions, like the Xhosa towards the south, arriving near the Eastern Cape. The Khoikhoi and San people, faced with these new populations, found themselves living in the driest areas.. Having arrived first in present-day KwaZulu-NatalZulu and the

Cederberg Rock Paintings - The History of South Africa in Brief - South Africa History - South African History
Rock paintings in the Cederberg

The Colonization of the Cape of Good Hope

One of the central parts of South African history, as we will see shortly in our summary, is undoubtedly the one that revolves around the Cape of Good Hope. In fact, the firstEuropeans arrived on this peninsula . Today’s Cape Town was the first place they settled. In 1486, it was the Portuguese Bartolomeo Diaz who first arrived in South Africa during its history, but the first to complete the journey to the Indies was Vasco da Gama, thus realizing the dream of all navigators. According to historians, although still controversial in terms of information, the Cape of Good Hope area was reached even earlier by the Phoenicians and the Arabs. Although not settling, but passing into the Atlantic from the Indian Ocean.

Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope

The arrival of the Dutch

The Dutch created, as we will see in this summary of the history of South Africa, where the capital stands today Cape Town the first settlement. Following the landing of Jan van Riebeeck on the Cape Peninsula in 1652, they founded the settlement as a station for the supplies of the Dutch East India Company. The settlers, initially, were dedicated to breeding and agriculture, thus taking the name of boers, that is peasants, and then afrikaner.

Local populations and Boers initially coexisted peacefully and between the 17th and 18th centuries they expanded, reaching up to Fish River, starting the clashes with the Xhosa peoples and starting the Cape Frontier wars. The Dutch, during this period in the summary of the history of South Africa, brought many slaves from India, Madagascar and Indonesia, starting mixed marriages and creating the cape coloured: today the predominant ethnic group in the capital area. Following the fall of the Netherlands and Napoleon’s European advance, the United Kingdom felt the temptation to occupy the Cape Colony. With the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War, in 1797, the English took the colony, annexing it to the United Kingdom in 1806.

Le miniere e le guerre anglo-boere

The English, during the short history of South Africa, continued the wars against the Xhosa, started by the Boers, pushing further and further east. The Boers did not accept the English occupation, especially when they officially declared theabolition of slavery. In the Cape Province, the Afrikaners broke away from the English possessions, moving inland. Here, the pioneers founded the voortrekker, small republics, which later united in the Transvaal Republic .Orange Free Stateto the

Moreover, gold and diamond mines were discovered in the hinterland, which further encouraged the immigration of the English and the interests of the Empire in the Colony and the Boer areas. Thus began two more Boer Wars during the summary of the history of South Africa, of which one of the main characters was Cecil Rhodes. The first, from 1880 to 1881, saw the victory of the Boers, while in the second, from 1899 to 1902 interests towards the mines, finding them not necessary and too costly, but not considering the Liberal Party of the British Parliament won. The wars were opposed by theEnglish, the

Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria - History of South Africa in Brief - History of South Africa in Brief
The Voortrekker Memorial, in Pretoria

British imperial expansion

During South African history, the Boers sought German support to counter the English, at that time in Namibia, over which he had control. This gave the British more reason to continue expansion and Boer resistance was not enough, ultimately leading to British victory. During these wars, the English had a cruel and deeply criticized attitude, as they established prison camps. . A sad chapter in this summary of South African history.leading to starvation of the Afrikaners, where children and women were also found. Furthermore, they burned and destroyed land, farms and crops,

Only following the Treaty of Vereeniging, England gained control over South Africa, anglicization program cancelled in the United Kingdom, the ‘Afrikaans was recognized as a language and theLiberals, with the victory of the 1906 by teaching English at school. This behavior, however, only increased the resentment. Only in impose its culture on the Boers. The English government, during the history of South Africa, attempted to Cape Colony, except in the people of color were without the right to vote, but taking on the debts of the war. Furthermore, in this treaty it was written that the

Cannon used during the Second Boer War in Mpumalanga
The Long Tom Monument, in Mpumalanga. A French field gun commemorating the last use of the Boer Creusot Long Tom guns

The birth of the Union of South Africa

During the brief history of South Africa, as we will see in this summary, 8 years after the end of the Second Boer War, in 1910 the colonies were unified. Natal, the Orange Free State, the Transvaal and the Cape Colony then became an autonomous dominion dependent on /span>; taken from Germany. Even though his name hit the headlines internationally, a strong crisis was present within the Union.Nimibia, subsequently obtaining a mandate from the League of Nations to control the area of ​​south-west Africa which today corresponds to First World War, the Union took part in the United Kingdom. Always alongside the Commonwealth

In fact, disagreements, even violent ones, between the English and the Boer nationalists were frequent. South African history sees the approval of the Statute of Westminster by the British parliament in 1931; thus leaving South Africa partial autonomy. During the Second World War, he participated alongside the British and the Allies. This happened even though the Boer party of the National Party sympathized with Germany. The South African army, throughout its history, fought in Europe, Ethiopia and North Africa.

Union Buildings Pretoria - History of South Africa Summary - Summary of the History of South Africa
L’Union Buildings, a Pretoria


The National Party, during the summary of South Africa’s history, won the elections in 1948. Thus began the period of apartheid, that is, ofracial segregation. Segregation systems, however, had already been used, as in Natal in the 19th century. Prime ministers in the NP from 1948 to 1966 based policy on the idea that the ethnic groups present in South Africa were incapable of coexisting peacefully. For this reason, bantustans were established, i.e. areas intended for black populations divided into ethnic groups in turn. These parts, however, occupied not even 13% of the country overall. The government therefore needed to formalize the independence of the South African bantustans, declaring four out of ten independent between 1976 and 1981; but the necessary UN recognition did not arrive.

At the same time, 50% of the black population remained in the lands of the whites, losing all civil rights. On 31 May 1961, the Union of South Africa following a referendum became an independent republic. The activists chose violent paths, the opposition formed by black people, such as the African National Congress, was declared illegal, thus using only strategic objectives. The ANC then began destroying power plants, thus leading to the arrest of leader Nelson Mandela. In1966, during South African history, theUnited Nationse withdrew the concessions to the country for control of Namibia. South Africa, however, refused to abandon.

The figure of Nelson Mandela in South African history

Born in 1918, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a politician, activist and, from 1994 to 1999 president of South Africa. Thanks to his struggles against apartheid, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, after having served 27 years in prison for his activity against segregation. Furthermore, he was the first black South African president. His figure is still remembered today for the pacification and the reconciliation of the South African people and a leader of the anti-apartheid movement, playing a fundamental role in the fall of the regime. Symbol of freedom of thought, anti-racism and non-violent opposition, following the theories of Gandhi in India. The house where Mandela lived in Soweto. Today, the house where he lived is home to the Mandela Family Museum. Johannesburg

Nelson Mandela Statue Pretoria
The statue of Nelson Mandela in Pretoria

The fall of Apartheid

The history of South Africa, in short, saw many international pressures during the 1990s; always colourful.Thabo Mbeki as the winner, who was succeeded by Mandela the first democratic elections in South African history were held with suffrage also extended to people of colour; seeing 1994. In 1990 , on February 11, Frederik de Klerk e due to conflict within the country. The regime of racial segregation thus began to falter, thanks also to the action of Nelson Mandela. He was released from prison, by order of

Another 9 native African languagese were officially added to the country, while English and Afrikaans remained as official South African languages. The African National Congress, following the elections, began the reconstruction of the country, aiming to rebuild its economy. It was then replaced by Gear, i.e. Growth, Employment and Redistribution; from the more conservative mold and making use of foreign investments. Due to tensions with the ANC and its allies, this change of direction was controversial.

Bench Queen Victoria Cape Town - History South Africa - South Africa History - The History of South Africa - History of the Republic of South Africa
Bench on Queen Victoria Street created by artist Roderick Sauls to recreate the black and white benches used during apartheid

Modern history of South Africa

All the efforts and changes made, however, did not allow the country’s economy to strengthen. In 2003 the poverty threshold of the population was high, despite the disparities among the white and colored population were eliminated. The economic crisis led to strong political corruption, although it did not lead to the resignation of the officials involved in the various scandals. Despite its problems, its economy is recovering and maintains its leadership as themost modern and industrialized country in Africa. Here, in fact,nuclear energy is used and today there are many food industries.

Rhodes Memorial Cape Town
The Rhodes Memorial, Cape Town

South Africa Today

Today, South Africa, i.e. the Republic of South Africa, is an independent state located in the Southern Africa. It is located on the southernmost tip of the continent and its southernmost point is Cape Agulhas, considered the border between the two oceans. The Prince Edward Islands, 1,770 km south-east of Port Elizabeth, also belong to the country today. Inside there is a great ethnic and cultural variety. 12 official languages ​​are spoken and, after having suffered the international sanctions following segregation, such as the sports boycott and the impossibility of participating in the Olympics, today South Africa is increasingly making its way into the world of tourism, thanks to its natural beauty and numerous activities.

The president has been in office since 2018 Cyril Ramaphosa and the country is a unitary Parliamentary Democratic Republic . Furthermore, the South African economy is emerging market, having many natural resources and developed sectors, such as energy and transport. Johannesburg is also one of the main stock exchanges in the world and the first on the continent. Despite being a country still full of contradictions and with a reputation that is not exactly rosy, South Africa is a wonderful land, which offers unique places and experiences, between wild life and culture, but also magnificent coastal stretches and breathtaking scenery that brings more and more travelers here every year.

Chapman's Peak
Chapman’s Peak, Cape Peninsula

Recommended Trips through the History of South Africa

After having discovered the history of South Africa in brief, if you are looking for itineraries to retrace South African history, we recommend our South Africa Tour Classic. A trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg, ideal for those who want to experience all the emotions of the rainbow country. Between cultural testimonies and magnificent natural attractions.

Classic South Africa Tour

In brief: South Africa 10 days group tour to discover the country.
Itinerary: Cape Town , Pretoria, Mpumalanga, Karongwe Game Reserve.
Duration: 10 days – 7 nights
Confirmed Departures

Code: SAARCH1001

Furthermore, to visit the natural wonders of two splendid countries, don’t miss our South Africa and Victoria Falls Tour. An exciting journey, between South Africa and Zimbabwe, with an extension to Victoria Falls and ending with a cruise admiring the African sunset. Discovering not only the history of South Africa!

Tour South Africa and Victoria Falls

In brief: South Africa and Victoria Falls 12 days group tour.
Itinerary: Cape Town, Mpumalanga, Victoria Falls.
Duration: 12 days – 9 nights
Confirmed Departures
Code: SAARCH1201

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