The Great Trek or Voortrek is the central event in the history of South Africa, beginning in the mid-thirties of the 19th century and going out in the early forties. This great northward migration of the Afrikaner people, involved thousands of cattle and sheep farmers who fled British authority. Leaving the frontier regions of the Cape Colony, and founded the independent republics of Natal, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal.
The struggle of the Afrikaner or Boer people since the 17th century when they arrived in South Africa from Europe was like that of Americans, a struggle for freedom from foreign authority. The Boers, or farmers, were predominantly Dutch, and spoke the Dutch language, but over the centuries their language changed to become a uniquely South African accent of the Indo-European language family.
It was the Napoleonic wars that brought the British to South Africa as rulers and settlers. In the 1830's and 1840's an estimated 12,000 Voortrekkers penetrated the future Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal provinces to put themselves beyond the reach of British authority. Trekboers felt uncomfortable with British policy towards racial and slave policy. The British promulgation of Ordinance 50 in 1828, which guaranteed equal rights before the law to all "free persons of color", was indeed a factor in Boer discontent. The various republics founded by the Voortrekkers while prohibiting slavery itself would all enshrine inequality of race into their constitutions.
The Great Trek was mainly the result of the "bursting of the dam" of held back population migration and population pressures, as Trekboer migrations eastward had come to a virtual stop for at least three decades. During the Great Trek they fought with the Zulus after Voortrekker leaders Piet Retief and Gerhard Maritz, along with almost half of their followers, were lured to a feast under the pretence of a land treaty and massacred by King...
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