Durban 1824-1910 : the formation of a settler elite and its role in the development of a colonial city.
The formation of a settler elite and its role in colonial Durban's urban development between 1854 and 1910 have been studied. In this instance of early colonial capitalism, local business leaders readily established an intimate connection between economic and political power. Many of them used their position on the Durban Town Council, formed in 1854, to wield preponderant civic influence and become the driving force in the development of the town. The nature of this settler elite has been investigated in terms of the theories of social stratification, formulated along Weberian lines. Following the institutionalization of power arrangements these leading settlers were legally acknowledged as a governing elite. Durban provided the setting in which metropolitan institutions, activity patterns and environments could be introduced and maintained, as dictated by the underlying value-system of the British settlers. The colonial city of Durban hereby not only demonstrated the appearance of a civilization, but also the mutual interaction between man's behaviour and his culturally modified environment. The ruling elite regarded the beautification of the urban environment as part of their civic responsibilities in this city-building process. Such a civic pride was especially applied in Durban to the building of impressive Town Halls and public buildings. These leaders also played a decisive role with regard to harbour improvements, railways, tramways, electricity supply, telephone services and sanitary improvements. Following a historical pattern of colonial urban development, Durban became another British city in Africa. Yet it possessed local features which made it atypical, if not unique, in a South African context. The driving force and way of life of the town during the colonial period was clearly British.