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Voortrekkers


The Voortrekkers (Afrikaans and Dutch for pioneers, literally "fore-pullers", "those in front who pull", "fore-trekkers") were Boer pastoralists from the frontiers of the Cape Colony who migrated eastwards during the Great Trek. The Voortrekkers, who were descended from the Dutch East India Company's original settlers at the Cape, undertook the Great Trek in several parties, under several different leaders, due to grievances with the then-British colonial administration.

Voortrekker Leaders arranged in order by size of party {number of families in brackets}:-

The total number of families that trekked under a trek leader is 1093. From available sources it was found that during the years 1835 to 1845 a total of about 2540 families took part in the Great Trek.

The Voortrekkers mainly came from the farming community of the Eastern Cape although some (such as Piet Retief) originally came from the Western Cape farming community while others (such as Gerrit Maritz) were successful tradesmen in the frontier towns. Some of them were wealthy men though most were not as they were from the poorer communities of the frontier. It was recorded that the 33 Voortrekker families at the Battle of Vegkop lost 100 horses, between 4,000 and 7,000 cattle, and between 40,000 and 50,000 sheep.

The Voortrekkers were mainly of Trekboer (migrating farmer) descent living in the eastern frontiers of the Cape. Hence, their ancestors had long established a semi-nomadic existence of trekking into expanding frontiers. Amongst the Voortrekkers were poor men too belonging to the squatter or bywoner class.

The British possession of the Cape was affirmed with the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814. With this change in government came a loss of control of the Cape and its resources such as land and labour for the Afrikaner community.

The reasons for the mass emigration from the Cape Colony have been much discussed over the years. Afrikaner historiography has emphasized the hardships endured by the frontier farmers which they blamed on British policies of pacifying the Xhosa tribes. Other historians have emphasized the harshness of the life in the Eastern Cape (which suffered one of its regular periods of drought in the early 1830s) compared to the attractions of the fertile country of Natal, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. Growing land shortages have also been cited as a contributing factor. The true reasons were obviously very complex and certainly consisted of both "push" factors (including the general dissatisfaction of life under British rule) and "pull" factors (including the desire for a better life in better country.)


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Wikipedia

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