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Definition: Free State from Philip's Encyclopedia

(formerly Orange Free State) Province in E central South Africa; the capital is Bloemfontein. The region consists principally of fertile high plains, with the Drakensberg Range as part of its E border with Lesotho. The River Orange forms its S border with Northern Cape. Boers began to settle in large numbers after the Great Trek (1836). In 1848, the British annexed the region as the Orange River Sovereignty and, in 1854, it achieved independence as Orange Free State. After its involvement in the South African Wars (1899-1902), it was again annexed by Britain. Regaining independence in 1907, the Orange Free State joined the Union of South Africa in 1910. The economy is dominated by agriculture and gold. Pop. (2000 est.) 2,817,076.


Summary Article: Free State
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Province of the Republic of South Africa; area 127,993 sq km/49,418 sq mi; population (2014 est) 2,786,800. Lesotho forms an enclave on the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape Province border. The capital is Bloemfontein, which is also the judicial capital of the republic; other main towns are Springfontein, Kroonstad, Bethlehem, Harrismith, and Koffiefontein. The province is located on the Highveld plateau and slopes downwards from heights of around 1,800 m/6,000 ft in the east to about 1,200 m/4,000 ft in the west. The main industries are gold, oil from coal, cement, and pharmaceuticals; agricultural production is centred on wheat, maize, potatoes, and fruit, with a speciality in cherries in the Ficksburg area; pastoral farming concentrates on dairy farming and sheep farming, which in the drier west is chiefly for the production of wool.

History Original settlements from 1810 were complemented by the Great Trek, and the state was recognized by Britain as independent in 1854. Following the South African, or Boer, War of 1899–1902, it was annexed by Britain as the Orange River Colony until it entered the Union as a province in 1910. The province's boundaries, exceptionally, were unchanged by the advent of majority rule in 1994.

The languages spoken are Sotho (56%), Afrikaans (14%), and Xhosa (9%).

Topography The Vaal and Orange rivers flow west to the Atlantic. The Free State consists mainly of undulating, grassy plains and plateaus, sloping northwards from the Drakensberg mountain range to the southeast. It is hilly on the Lesotho border to the east. The average altitude is 1,200–1,500 m/3,937–4,921 ft.

Economy The Free State consists mainly of light arable soils on open plains or slightly rising ground, and has one-third of South Africa's cultivable land. Cereals, tobacco, and fruit are grown, and cattle and sheep are grazed. The ongoing Orange River project, a multipurpose scheme producing both hydroelectricity and water for irrigation and domestic supply, is important for the economic development of the area, and has enabled a substantial rise in population in neighbouring areas. Alluvial and mined diamonds are produced, but account for only a small proportion of the republic's output. The Free State's gold deposits have been exploited since 1950. Major mines include Western Holdings, President Steyn, and Free State Saaipleas. Two of the 11 Free State goldmines also produce uranium. The Vereeniging-Clydesdale coalfield supplies one-fifth of South Africa's coal production.

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