South Africa was formed on May 31, 1910 with the union of the British colonies of Cape of Good Hope, Natal, Transvaal and Orange River Colony as a self-governing dominion within the British Commonwealth.


Cape of Good Hope

The history of Cape Colony started in 1652 with the founding of Cape Town by Dutch commander Jan van Riebeeck, working for the Dutch East India Company. Napoleon occupied the Netherlands in 1795. This prompted Britain to occupy the territory in 1795 as a tactic in the Napoleonic Wars. The Dutch East India Company transferred its territories and claims to the Batavian Republic in 1798 and ceased to exist in 1799. The British handed Cape Colony back to the Batavian Republic in 1803. In 1806, the Cape, now nominally controlled by the Batavian Republic, was occupied again by the British in the Battle of Blauberg in order to keep Napoleon out of the Cape, and to control the Far East trade routes. They set up a British colony on 8 January 1806. Conflict between English immigrants and established Dutch settlers (Boers) led to the withdrawal of the Boers into the interior after 1836. These tensions, intensified by the discovery of rich diamond and gold deposits, increasing English immigration and Britain's imperialistic policy, resulted in the Boer War of 1899-1902, which ended with British occupation of the formerly independent Boer republics. In 1910, Cape Colony joined with Natal, Transvaal and the Orange River Colony to form the Union of South Africa. During the Boer War, a number of provisionals appeared, the most famous of which were issued at Mafeking, where the defending British force was commanded by Gen. Robert S.S. Baden-Powell, who later established the Boy Scouts.




Vasco da Gama was the first European to see the coast of Natal on Christmas Day 1497. Christmas in Portuguese is Natal, which gave rise to the original name for the region. In the early 19th century the area was inhabited primarily by Bantu-speaking Zulu people. In the 1820s and 30s the British acquired much of Natal from the Zulu chiefs. Afrikaner farmers (Boers) arrived in 1837 and, after battles with the Zulu established a republic. In 1843, Britain annexed Natal to Cape Colony, and a Boer exodus followed. In 1856, Natal became a separate colony. Sugarcane cultivation began in 1860, and many Indians came to work in the sugar industry. In 1893, Natal was given internal self-government. In 1910 it became a founding province of the Union (now Republic) of South Africa.


Orange River Colony

The Orange Free State (Afrikaans: Oranje Vrystaat) was an independent country in southern Africa during the second half of the 19th century. Extending between the Orange and Vaal rivers, it was established as a free state by Boer settlers, after their departure from the British-dominated Cape Province, and was annexed by the United Kingdom in 1848. The British recognized the independence of the Orange Free State and the county officially became independent on 23rd February, 1854. Although the Orange Free State developed into a politically and economically successful republic, it experienced chronic conflict with the British until it was finally annexed as the Orange River Colony in 1900. It joined the Union of South Africa in 1910.
The Boer republic began to issue postage stamps in 1868, and continued until 1897. The sole design used was an orange tree, with the inscription "Oranje Vrij Staat" in the margin. The stamps were typographed by De La Rue and Company, and came in different denominations.



The Transvaal was colonized by Boer settlers who exited the British-dominated Cape Colony in the 1830's and 1840's. They easily overcame the native peoples and established several republics outside British control. In the 1850's, the British came to an understanding with the Boer republics, granting independence to the South African Republic in what is now the Transvaal. Britain annexed the republic again in 1877, supposedly for its own protection, but it regained its independence in 1881 after the First Boer War. Beginning in 1885, the discovery of a tremendous lode of gold in the Witwatersrand led to the immigration of many foreigners to the Transvaal. Increasing fear of British designs on the region led the Boers to make a pre-emptive strike in 1899. The Second Boer War resulted in the incorporation of the Transvaal into the British Empire in 1900. Ten years later, the Boer republics joined with the Cape Colony to form the Union of South Africa.



Some South African stamps: