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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Making of a Colonial Elite: Property, Family and Landed Stability in the Cape Colony, c.1750-1834
Author:Dooling, WayneISNI
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic terms:South Africa
The Cape
class formation
social history
Women's Issues
History and Exploration
Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Ethnic and Race Relations
Labor and Employment
Cultural Roles
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03057070500035802
Abstract:Until its abolition in 1834, slavery formed the backbone of settler agriculture in the Cape Colony, South Africa, and underpinned a complex hierarchy of status and social inequality. A number of historians have pointed to the existence of stratification within the slave society at the Cape, and have identified its leading slave-holders as the 'Cape gentry'. This article reaffirms this appellation, but argues that this class was reproduced in ways that differed from the standard 'model' based on the English experience. Cape landlords, like many of their contemporaries elsewhere, displayed deep cultural commitment to a system of inheritance based on the principle of equal division of property. As a result, the formation of stable, long-lasting elites proved difficult. Under these circumstances, women - and widows in particular - stood at the centre of this process of class formation. This article uses detailed case studies of property transfer to track the gendered mechanisms through which elite status was maintained from generation to generation. It further argues that these men and women were defined not by ties to specific properties, but by their commitment to particular localities. In this way, and by translating their wealth into local influence, the gentry were able to rule the Cape countryside. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]