Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

First Advisor

Sam B. Hilliard


The study of colonial settlement policy is one way for human geographers to understand how people shape the places they inhabit. The major concern of this study was to determine the impact of Dutch-Afrikaner, Native, and British cultures on the Natal colonial settlement system between 1838 and 1879. A prolonged era (1844-1879) of British settlement policy was preceded by a brief period of Dutch-Afrikaner hegemony (1838-1843). I test the hypothesis that Natal's British settlement system was a syncretic compromise between European and South African (Native and Dutch-Afrikaner) adaptations. My interpretation turns on frontier processes of transfer and borrowing. I suggest a threefold regionalization (sociogeographic entities), reflecting the relative importance of transfer and/or borrowing processes to explain the diversity of the Natal settlement system. British cultural transfer and persistence was dominant in coastal Natal and characterized the first sociogeographic region centered on Durban. The second sociogeographic region, centered on the capital Pietermaritzburg in midland Natal was a hearth of British experimentation. Here processes of transfer and borrowing (from Dutch-Afrikaner and Natives) coupled with adaptation co-existed. The third sociogeographic region in interior Natal (area north of and including Weenen) exemplifies the persistence of Dutch-Afrikaner settlement ideas and institutions (laagers, large erven sizes, dorp names, and extensive pastoral landholdings) and their adoption by the British. Here British borrowing of Dutch-Afrikaner settlement ideas outweighed the wholesale transfer and implantation of British ideas. The Natalian settlement system is considered a syncretic compromise between European (British) and South African (Native and Dutch-Afrikaner) adaptations--Natal was not a European (Dutch or British) transplantation from northwest Europe. The settlement of Natal was modelled after the compact agricultural settlement ethos of Wakefield and the colonial reformers. The successful settlement of Anglo agriculturalists on 20-acre allotments prescribed by the colonial reformers' settlement model was, however, modified and adapted by the presence of approximately 100,000 semi-nomadic Bantu and Dutch-Afrikaner pastoralists. In colonial Natal it may be argued that the sum of the South African settlement system is greater than the parts (Native, Dutch-Afrikaner, and British) that constitute it.