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‘To Enlighten South Africa’: The Creation of a Free Press at the Cape in the Early Nineteenth Century

  • John M. MacKenzie
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media book series (PSHM)

Abstract

The early nineteenth century has usually been interpreted as a period of autocratic rule in the colonies of the British Empire. The Napoleonic Wars produced systems designed for the exigencies of global conflict. A rapidly expanding empire had to be assimilated at a period before modern colonial bureaucracies — and their London headquarters — had been fully established. Moreover, governorships tended to be in the hands of military figures. After 1815, a continuing network of military governors, often connected with the Duke of Wellington and other key figures in the Peninsula campaigns, were sent to the colonies, not least to save them from the half-pay status of the unemployed officer.1 They were invariably conservative, generally Tory in sympathies, and all their experience and predilections led them to be anxious about the possibility of the spread of a seditious Jacobinism in the Empire. They were therefore disposed to maintain the tight clamps on associations and on publishing of all sorts, which had been imposed during the era of the wars with revolutionary and Napoleonic France.

Keywords

Early Nineteenth Century Printing Press South African Journal East India Company Press Freedom 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Chris Bayly, The British Empire and the World, 1780–1830 (London: Blackwell, 1989);Google Scholar
  2. and, in more detail, Zöe Laidlaw, Colonial Connections (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
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  4. 3.
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  5. 5.
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    For a sympathetic account of Somerset’s governorship, see A. K. Millar, Plantagenet in South Africa: Lord Charles Somerset (Cape Town: Oxford University Press, 1965). Some modern historians have also attempted to reinstate his reputation.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    It should be remembered that the struggles of William Cobbett and William Hone to establish a free press in London were very recent, with climactic events taking place in 1816–17. See Ben Wilson, The Laughter of Triumph: William Hone and the Fight for a Free Press (London: Faber and Faber, 2005).Google Scholar
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    For Philip, see Andrew Ross, John Philip: Missions, Race and Politics in South Africa (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1986).Google Scholar
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  13. 10.
    There is a substantial literature on Fairbairn. In addition to Botha and Keegan, see Meltzer, ‘The Growth of Cape Town Commerce’; Kirsten McKenzie, ‘The South African Commercial Advertiser and the Making of Middle-class Identity in Early Nineteenth-century Cape Town’, MA diss., University of Cape Town, 1993; ‘ “Franklins at the Cape”: the South African Commercial Adviser and the Creation of a Colonial Public Sphere, 1824–1854’, Kronos, 25 (1998–9): 88–102.Google Scholar
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    Rachel Holmes, Scanty Particulars: The Strange Life and Astonishing Secret of Victorian Adventurer and Pioneering Surgeon, James Barry (London: Viking, 2002). James Barry was certainly a close friend of Lord Charles Somerset and acted as medical adviser to him and his family. Holmes speculates that Barry may have been a hermaphrodite.Google Scholar
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  19. 31.
    Meurant was half-Swiss, half-English and was born at the Cape. His father apprenticed him to Greig. In old age he wrote a celebrated book which set out to describe the heroic efforts to achieve a free press at the Cape and the manner in which he took this tradition to the frontier at Grahamstown. L. H. Meurant, Sixty Years Ago or Reminiscences of the Struggle for the Freedom of the Press in South Africa and the Establishment of the First Newspaper in the Eastern Province (Cape Town: S. Solomon 1885), reprinted in a facsimile edition by Africana Connoisseurs Press, 1963.Google Scholar
  20. 32.
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  21. 33.
    H. C. Botha, ‘Die rol van Christoffel J. Brand in Suid-Afrika, 1820–1854’, in Archives Year Book of South African History, Vol. 40 (1977), Pretoria 1982, pp. 1–116. Die Zuid-Afrikaan is treated on pp. 23–53 and passim.Google Scholar
  22. 34.
    Botha, Fairbairn, p. 137. See also W. Ritchie, The History of the South African College, 1829–1918, 2 vols. (Cape Town, T. M. Miller 1918).Google Scholar
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    Vann and Van Arsdel (eds.), Periodicals, pp. 254–86. See also R. H. W. Shepherd. Lovedale South Africa 1824–1955 (Lovedale: Lovedale Press, 1971).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John M. MacKenzie 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • John M. MacKenzie

There are no affiliations available

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