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Settlers, the state and colonial power: the colonization of Queen Adelaide Province, 1834-37

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 17:00 authored by Alan LesterAlan Lester
Queen Adelaide Province consisted of some 7,000 square miles of Rarabe Xhosa territory annexed by the British Cape colonial government in May 1835 during the Sixth Frontier War. The province was held only until the end of 1836 when it was abandoned under pressure from the imperial government, but it represented the first British attempt to extend direct control over a large body of formerly independent Africans. No such ambitious scheme had ever been attempted before in the Cape, and no such scheme was to be attempted elsewhere in Africa until the late nineteenth century. Given its short-lived nature, Queen Adelaide Province has not been extensively analysed in any of the prominent histories of the eastern Cape. However, while the treatment is brief, its significance has been widely recognized. This early, temporary colonization of Xhosa territory has served as a lens through which to view colonial extension in the eastern Cape as a whole. In the late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century settler histories of George Cory and George McCall Theal, the annexation of Queen Adelaide Province represents a temporary advance within a much broader colonial progress. One episode in the epic attempt to extend colonial civilization across ‘Kaffraria’, expansion within the province was unfortunately thwarted by misguided Cape and metropolitan philanthropy. In W. M. Macmillan's liberal critique of the late 1920s and early 1930s, the disputes over the province between the land-hungry settlers, the strategically-minded Governor D'Urban and the humanitarian Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Glenelg, are again viewed as part of a much broader struggle. But rather than Cory's struggle between civilization and savagery, this is seen as a contest between malicious and benign conceptions of colonialism. The province represents an early collision between, on the one hand, evangelical and humanitarian versions of cultural colonization that guaranteed Xhosa access to their land (a kind of trusteeship that Macmillan advocated for his own times) and, on the other hand, the practice of colonization founded upon settler-led conquest and dispossession.


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  • Published


Journal of African History




Cambridge University Press





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  • Geography Publications

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