Cities and the origins of capitalism in Natal : the role of cities and towns in the incorporation of Natal in the capitalist world-system, 1837-1899.
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This dissertation looks at the role cities and towns played in the incorporation of Natal into the capitalist world-system. It looks at which urban network came into existence and how this interacted with the development of the economy. It also looks at the cities themselves and how these were the locus of important class and racial struggles. The period that was researched is the second half of the nineteenth century, more concretely from 1837, the year that the voortrekkers crossed the Drakensberg into Natal, to 1899, the year that the Boer War started. The main economic activity in Natal for most of this period was the transit trade. This was also at least partly by default, as commercial settler agriculture was not very successful. This resulted in a pattern of settlement that was characterised by two primate cities, Durban and Pietermaritzburg, and very little urban development in most of the countryside. The pattern of settlement also followed the main trade route. The nature of railway development entrenched this pattern by not fostering agricultural development as the railways were mainly built to serve the trade. The dominance of the commercial elites led to policies that were rather beneficial for the merchants than for the settler farmers, the labour and 'native' policy and the railway development illustrate this. By the end of this period things however started to change, the settler elite became more influential and the pattern of settlement started changing. The urban history of colonial Natal also shows that things do not just turn out as they are planned by governments, elites or 'capital'. The ideal of the white city turned out to be impossible to achieve and also providing a large docile, dependent and cheap black labour force was not a straightforward task. The cities offered Africans and Indians plenty of opportunities to eke out an independent existence in or on the fringes of town, which put them in a strong bargaining position. This led the administration to use a wide range of techniques of social engineering, which in the twentieth century evolved into almost complete urban segregation.