a1 African Studies, School of History and Cultures, University of Birmingham
Early twentieth-century South Africa was a composite society—“part settler state and part African colony … includ[ing] diverse recently conquered African polities as well as a divided white population.” Mining industrialization and British imperialism, particularly after the discovery of substantial gold deposits and the founding of Johannesburg in 1886, put pressure on southern African peoples and states to function as an integrated labor market, and on their leaders to submit to an overarching political authority. These developmental and administrative rationalizing forces were given greater scope in the years following the South African War of 1899 to 1902, especially in the defeated Boer republics of the interior. Renamed the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies, these territories were initially under the direct rule of British High Commissioner Alfred Milner. They took the lead in a process of state-building that continued well beyond their political amalgamation with the coastal colonies of the Cape and Natal to form the Union of South Africa in 1910. It has been argued that this institutional reconstruction left South Africa with “a modern civil service, with controls and an information-gathering capacity sophisticated enough to … make the competence, helpfulness, and honesty of individual state officials relatively less crucial.”
(Online publication March 22 2012)
Acknowledgments: I thank David W. Cohen, Insa Nolte, James Oakes, Kate Skinner, Chris Wickham, and the anonymous CSSH reviewers for their insightful and constructive readings of earlier versions of this paper.