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The British Era
(page 4)
A City Develops
After the end of slavery a new, more complex society began to take shape in Cape Town.

Although the ruling class was white, so too were many of the working class. State-aided schemes brought poverty-stricken settlers from the UK, who tried to establish themselves in the Cape. A third of all servants in 1865 were white.

The British introduced the term 'coloured' for non-Europeans, and 'Malays' to refer specifically to Cape Muslims. Records show roughly equal numbers of coloured and whites in most occupations, including the skilled professions. Mixed marriages also continued. Some areas of the city were distinctly 'coloured' but for the most part working class whites and coloureds lived in the same areas and pursued the same occupations.

Many Afrikaners claimed compensation payable to slave owners. With this capital they invested in property and turned from slave-owners to slum landlords. In the absence of building restrictions (introduced 1861) houses were built without water or sewerage disposal, separated by narrow alleyways. Areas of lower Cape Town and District 6 developed in this way, with certain 'slum lords', such as J Wicht, owning hundreds of such cramped dwellings, renting out rooms to poor families.

The cruel poverty of these areas helped to maintain the popularity of the taverns that had developed under the VOC. Wine and whisky, in particular, were available cheaply.

Temperance societies and later the Salvation Army and the YMCA tried to counter the rowdy alcoholism that was a feature of city life.

The end of slavery, therefore, created a society that was much more obviously stratified, with a distinct contrast between the bourgeoisie middle class with their regency townhouses, pianos and carriages and the extrovert, piece-work class of artisans, many of whom lived in terrible slums.
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Heritage Sections
· Culture ·
· Environment ·
History · Society
Personalities · Areas

In this period of Cape History:



Reform Movement

Afrikaner Reaction

A City Develops

Imperial Capital

The Rise of Prejudice

Boom Years

The End of British Rule


Bibliography & Contacts


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