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Definition: Transvaal from Collins English Dictionary


1 former province of NE South Africa: colonized by the Boers after the Great Trek (1836); became a British colony in 1902; joined South Africa in 1910; replaced in 1994 for administrative purposes by a new system of provinces (Eastern Transvaal (later Mpumalanga), Northern Transvaal (later Limpopo), Gauteng, and North West province). Capital: Pretoria

Summary Article: Transvaal
From The Columbia Encyclopedia

(trănzväl'), former province, NE South Africa. With the new constitution of 1994, it was divided into Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga), Northern Transvaal (now Limpopo), Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Veereeniging (now Gauteng), and part of North West prov. The Transvaal was bounded on the N and W by the Limpopo River, which forms the border with Zimbabwe and Botswana, on the E by Mozambique and Swaziland, and on the S by the Vaal River, the border with Orange Free State (now Free State). It was mainly situated in the highveld, at an altitude of 3,000 to 6,000 ft (910–1,830 m). Pretoria and Johannesburg (both now in Gauteng) were the capital and the largest city, respectively. Other leading cities (all also now in Gauteng) included Brakpan, Germiston, Krugersdorp, Springs, and Vereeniging.


The Sotho and Venda peoples (both Bantu-speaking peoples) are thought to have settled in the Transvaal as early as the 8th cent. In the mid-1830s Afrikaner farmers (Boers), mainly from the Cape Colony (see Cape Province), came to the region (see Trek, Great). They scattered over the huge territory but were unable to form a strong government. In the Sand River Convention (1852) Great Britain, which at the time also held Cape Colony and Natal (see KwaZulu-Natal), recognized the right of the Boers beyond the Vaal River to administer their own affairs.

In 1857 the South African Republic was inaugurated in the SW Transvaal but claimed sovereignty over the whole territory. Martin Pretorius, son of the Boer leader Andries Pretorius, was its first president. In the 1860s and 70s the South African Republic expanded in size, and there were isolated finds of gold, diamonds, and copper. However, by the late 1870s the republic was bankrupt.

In 1877, Britain annexed the South African Republic after only a mild formal protest by its president, T. F. Burgers. In late 1880, however, the Boers began an armed revolt against the British and proclaimed a new republic. After defeats at Laing's Nek, Ingogo, and Majuba Hill (all in Feb., 1881), Britain granted the South African Republic independence.

In 1883, S. J. P. Kruger (Oom Paul Kruger) became the new republic's first president. In 1886 large gold deposits were discovered on what later came to be called the Witwatersrand, and many foreigners, especially Britons and Germans, entered the republic. The foreigners, called Uitlanders, threatened to overwhelm the Boers, whom they soon outnumbered by more than two to one. The Boers denied political rights to the foreigners and taxed them heavily. In Dec., 1895, Leander Starr Jameson staged a raid into the Transvaal that was intended to trigger an uprising by foreigners against President Kruger. However, only a minor revolt materialized, and Jameson was captured.

Tension between Boers and Britons in S Africa increased after the Jameson Raid, and in 1899 the South African War broke out. The Transvaal was annexed by Britain in 1900, but guerrilla fighting continued. The Treaty of Vereeniging (1902) ended the war and made the Transvaal (as well as the Orange Free State) a crown colony of the British Empire. The Transvaal, led by Jan Christiaan Smuts and Louis Botha, was granted self-government in 1907 and in 1910 became a founding province of the Union of South Africa. In 1961, the Transvaal became a province of the Republic of South Africa.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

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