The 1600’s marked the Dutch Golden Age, when Holland’s culture, science, economy and military were still of the strongest in the world. It was a time of much scientific discovery in Europe. By the end of the century Europe had acquired knowledge of logarithms, electricity, telescope and microscope, calculus, universal gravity, Newton’s laws, air pressure and mechanical devices that could do simple calculations.
IN THE CAPE:
The VOC (Dutch East Indian Company) is sent to establish a halfway station at the Southern tip of Africa. They build a fort and started doing agriculture. The Dutch introduced many new plants, including grapes, grains, ground nuts, potatoes, apples and citrus (as well as oak trees).
The small agricultural settlement “Stellenbosch” is founded in 1979, with a number of Dutch families settling there. Burghers don’t pay taxes in the first year and can own their own land (they are therefore called ‘free burghers’).
The 1700s is a time of great optimism and restlessness in Europe that eventually leadsup to the French Revolution. Science and philosophy becomes increasingly important (the ‘Enlightenment‘) and by the 1770s, the Industrial Revolution is commenced by the designing of the steam engine. America is colonized and Britain becomes a strong political power.
IN THE CAPE:
The VOC declares that new settlers in the Cape may no longer occupy property as free burghers, but farms must be on loan from the the Company as leningsplaatsen. With this the system of property ownership in the Cape change drastically
In 1717 Stellenbosch eventually builds a new church – the former one burned down in 1710. The new building site is located where Moederkerk is today. In the same year the meuldam (mill dam) floods due to winter rains and town’s folk are urged to come and help with a pitcher, shovel, ax or basket.
- On Christmas 1717 a massive flood hit the coast of Holland, German and Scandinavia, and approximately 14 000 people died. The tragedy became known as the Christmas flood.
The French empire comes to a fall and Britain becomes the new world power. By the end of the 1800s they occupy a 5th of the world’s land and a quarter of the world population. During this century Britain drives large-scale globalization, industrialization and economic change worldwide. The 1800s are also known as the Victorian era, characterized by the employment of children in mines and factories, as well as strict social norms in terms of gender roles. In the 1800s some countries begin to abolish slavery.
IN THE CAPE:
For a few years the Cape alternates between British and Dutch control. In 1806 British ships invades the Cape (the Battle of Blaauwberg. which Louis Thibault writes of in his letters and diaries). The Cape becomes the capital of the new British Cape Colony, extending Northwards during the course of the century. During the 1800s the Cape gets its own parliament (1854) as well as its own prime minister (1872).
1817: The young surveyor, W.F. Hertzog, is sent to Stellenbosch to draw his famous ‘Hertzog map’. This is the first proper town plan and provides valuable information about the settlement’s development. It was popular, for instance, to convert single storey buildings into double storey. The following year, authorities decides to publicize Stellenbosch’s street names (which until then weren’t so important).
The German inventor Karl von Drais designed a strange two-wheel vehicle known as the ‘dandy horse’, ‘Draisienne‘ or ‘Laufmaschine’, thereby starting the development of the bicycle!
Major changes and dramatic events dominate the 20th century, including the 1st and 2nd World War, developments in nuclear power, space exploration, nationalism, decolonization, communication technology, and later the digital revolution. Many of the colonial countries in Africa are declared independent.
IN THE CAPE:
Early in the century the cape is still under British rule but opposition from Boer citizens leads to the Anglo-Boer War in 1899-1902. Britain conquered the Boers and established the Union of South Africa in 1910, merging the Cape Colony with the Transvaal, Orange Free State and Natal. Cape Town becomes the legislative capital of the new Union. In 1931, South Africa is declared completely independent of Britain.
1917 After years of volatile wine prices and the monopoly of export traders, a successful Wine producer’s Union is founded to protect local wine farmers – something that has been unsuccessful since 1825. The majority of Stellenbosch’s wine farmers sign up by 1917. The following year, the KWV (Kooperatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging) is officially registered as a company.
TRIVIA: In 1917 J.R.R. Tolkien starts writing the Book of lost Tales, his earliest tales of Middle earth. Tolkien was in the army for 5 years, but his health deteriorated. It was during a time of repose in the countryside that he started the Lost Tales. He and his wife Edith had their first child in 1917.
If you like this early history of Stellenbosch, read about Adam Tas’s adventures here.
‘nDromer is a young Stellenbosser who loves writing about the everyday things that often go unnoticed. She likes dusty books and seeing how the past isn’t always what it seems. She has written about Stellenbosch, it’s heritage and it’s people almost every week since 2015.
Article: Y Coetsee 2017
Sources: Stellenbosch Drie Eeue,
www.wikipedia.org: 17th century, 18th century, 19th century, 20th century, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
Map: Cambridge University Library, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36387