South Coast colonial history told in new book

2015-10-01 06:00
Duncan Du Bois with his newly published book.
 Photo: supplied

Duncan Du Bois with his newly published book. Photo: supplied

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FOR the first time a regional study of the South Coast during the colonial era is now available.

Sugar and Settlers: A History of the Natal South Coast 1850-1910 is the work of author Duncan Du Bois based on research he did for his doctoral thesis at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Sugar and Settlers commences with the settlement of Isipingo in 1850 and traces the southward movement of the frontier initially to the Umzimkulu River as settlers established a sugar-based economy.

Following the extension of Natal’s southern frontier to the Mtamvuna River, the difficulties of travel and transportation became the dominant narrative as settlers repeatedly petitioned the colonial government to erect bridges over the 26 rivers which traverse the coast between Reunion and Port Shepstone.

In this comprehensive account, Du Bois unpacks the issues and events that coloured the lives of the South Coast pioneers.

These include the role of missionaries, the fears of a Zulu uprising, labour­ and capital constraints, fauna­, flora and the environment, the role of women, education, governance, infrastructural developments such as the coming of the telegraph, and the eventual construction of the South Coast Railway.

A major innovation and initiative on the part of the Aiken brothers and the efforts of William Bazley was the opening of the Umzimkulu River to navigation. From 1880 to 1902, small ships plied between Durban and Port Shepstone often also servicing Umkomaas and Mzinto bay.

Despite their isolation from the rest of the colony of Natal, the South Coast’s settlers replicated their British roots in terms of sports and culture. Once the railway was through to Port Shepstone, they saw the potential of their coast as a tourism mecca.

Divided into three parts, the middle part of Sugar and Settlers deals with the effects of colonialism on the indigenous African population as well as the discriminatory experiences of indentured and settler Indians.

This section includes a detailed case study of the human rights abuses­ that occurred on the Umzinto sugar estates of the Reynolds brothers, Frank and Charles.

Meticulously researched and featuring over 80 illustrations and photographs, Sugar and Settlers is published by SunPress Media.

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