The impact of the white settlers on the natural environment of Natal, 1845-1870.
As no other study of settler impact on the Natal environment exists for the early colonial period, this thesis is a pioneering work. It aims to document the changes white settlers made to the natural environment of Natal between 1845 and 1870. In order to do that, an understanding of the state of the environment by 1845 first had to be reached. This involved outlining briefly the nature of the environment and then assessing the impact made by the Iron Age farmers, the white hunter-traders, and the Boers of the Republic. The establishment of the Colony in 1845 meant that Natal was now in the hands of British administrators, determined to discover and utilize the resources of this outpost of the British Empire. The arrival and distribution of about 5 000 settlers in the early 1850s made the white population of Natal predominantly urban and British. Imbued with the idea of progress these settlers attempted to produce for their own subsistence and, where possible, sufficient surplus to sell for profit on the market. In so doing they not only perpetuated and intensified types of environmental exploitation already operating in Natal, but also initiated new ones. Over a period of twenty-five years, the comparatively small settler population was responsible for the irreversible transformation of the landform and mineral resources, flora and fauna of Natal. This thesis details the changes the settlers caused, on a regjon-by-region basis, but lack of evidence in some areas - despite extensive research - has resulted in several lacunae in the overall picture. However, as the conclusion shows, the general pattern of exploitation of the Natal settlers was not unique, but in fact mirrored that of settler societies in Australia and North America.
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