Highlighting Historical Romance with Jude Knight’s thoughts on war and seeds of war at the Cape of Good Hope
In 1806, the British fought and won a battle near Cape Town. At stake was the control of the only port in Southern Africa for ships making the long journey from Europe around the Cape of Good Hope into the Pacific Ocean and on to the European colonies of the Far East. The port allowed ships to safely stock up with food and water — at least the ships of the side that controlled the port.
It was the second time the British had taken over the Dutch colony. In 1795, after the French invaded the Netherlands and captured Amsterdam, the British mounted a successful invasion. They controlled the Cape until 1802, when the Peace of Amiens returned all Dutch territories to the Dutch. When war broke out again in 1803, the British began planning a second invasion. This time, they paid compensation to the Dutch after the war and stayed.
First settlement and the slave trade
The crucial port and its hinterlands were first settled by the Dutch East India Company in 1652. By 1657, Dutch settlers were arriving to take up lands. The local San and Khoekhoe people found working conditions on those farms unpleasant, and many disappeared into the deserts to avoid the Dutch, so the Company imported slaves, mostly from Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and South East Asia.
Most were sold to settlers (whose descendants would be the Boer), to work as domestic servants or laborers. Some continued to belong to the Company, working on Company farms or outposts, or on the docks.
Harsh and demeaning living conditions
A smallpox epidemic in 1713 killed thousands of the Khoekhoe, and the survivors withdrew from the lands around Cape Town. However, the Company continued to import thousands of slaves, and for most of the history of the Colony, through to emancipation under the British in 1834, slaves outnumbered the white settlers. Harsh living and working conditions meant these numbers could only be maintained by continuing the trade: between the first slave arrivals in 1657 and the banning of the slave trade in 1807, about 60,000 slaves were brought into the Colony.
In contrast to the poor food, clothing, and housing of their slaves, recent studies of inventories of deceased estates suggest that the average Boer farmer had a much higher standard of living than those of the same social class in Europe.
The form of slavery practised in the Cape Colony was chattel slavery, which means that slaves were defined first and foremost as property, not as people. They could be bought, sold, bequeathed in a will, and used as security for loans. Since they didn’t want to be slaves, the slave owners needed to keep them under control, or they’d lose their property. They could beat them, withhold food, make them work more hours, keep them in chains. If a slave offered violence, the owner could put them to death.
Slave owners often gave their purchases a new name, many of them insulting (Dikbeen or Thickleg), or ironic (Fortuijn or Fortune). Slave men were not allowed to wear shoes, and had to pass an exam to prove they spoke Dutch before they could wear hats.
From 1806, the British appointed a slave guardian whose job it was to apply the new laws (Amelioration laws) aimed at improving the lives of slaves. The Amelioration laws included the right to a legal marriage, families being allowed to live together, limits on the number of hours slaves could be made to work, rules about the amount of food, stricter controls on punishment, and the right to keep any money they made by working in their free time.
Many of the Boer farmers were outraged that slaves were able, even encouraged, to make complaints against their masters. When English replaced Dutch as the official language of the colony, they saw it as a further assault on Boer culture.
Slavery ended in the Cape Colony when it was banned throughout the British Empire in 1834. For many Boer, this was the final straw. The British demanded that they release forty thousand Boer owned slaves. They offered compensation, but it must be collected from London.
In 1837, the Great Trek began, when three thousand Boers travelled through the Drakensberg Mountains to Natal, and then back across the mountains to the High Veld and the Orange River, founding the Orange Free State and Transvaal.
The seeds were sown for the long wars against the African nations who were not impressed by the Europeans who had suddenly appeared in their midst, and later against the British in the Boer Wars.
I intended for Unkept Promises, my fourth Golden Redepenning novel, to take place mostly in the Far East, when my heroine Mia goes looking for her long absent husband. When I came to actually write the novel, I found that the long voyage from England and then back again wouldn’t fit my plot arc. No problem. My hero was a naval officer. I could just post him somewhere else.
The Cape Colony appealed. It was relatively peaceful, even in the midst of the Napoleonic wars. And it was far enough away from England that the trip was a daring move.
Except I knew nothing about the Cape Colony. Down the research rabbit hole I went. This post is the fruit of that process.
About the Book
Unkept Promises The Golden Redepennings series Book 4
She wants to negotiate a comfortable marriage; he wants her in his bed
“… oaths and anchors equally will drag: naught else abides on fickle earth but unkept promises of joy.” Herman Melville
Naval captain Jules Redepenning has spent his adult life away from England, and at war. He rarely thinks of the bride he married for her own protection, and if he does, he remembers the child he left after their wedding seven years ago. He doesn’t expect to find her in his Cape Town home, a woman grown and a lovely one, too.
Mia Redepenning sails to Cape Town to nurse her husband’s dying mistress and adopt his children. She hopes to negotiate a comfortable married life with the man while she’s there. Falling in love is not on her to-do list.
Before they can do more than glimpse a possible future together, their duties force them apart. At home in England, Mia must fight for the safety of Jules’s children. Imprisoned in France, Jules must battle for his self-respect and his life.
Only by vanquishing their foes can they start to make their dreams come true.
About the Author
Have you ever wanted something so much you were afraid to even try? That was Jude ten years ago.
For as long as she can remember, she’s wanted to be a novelist. She even started dozens of stories, over the years. But life kept getting in the way.
Her first book came out to excellent reviews in December 2014, and the rest is history. Many books, lots of positive reviews, and a few awards later, she feels foolish for not starting earlier.
Jude write historical fiction with a large helping of romance, a splash of Regency, and a twist of suspense. She then tries to figure out how to slot the story into a genre category. She’s mad keen on history, enjoys what happens to people in the crucible of a passionate relationship, and loves to use a good mystery and some real danger as mechanisms to torture her characters.