History of Durban

This incredible province is often over looked by overseas visitors choosing instead to go to the game reserves of the Northern provinces or the beaches of Cape Town. So it sadly has become, in the tourism world, the ugly younger sister of Cape Town.

Originally discovered by Vasco Da Gama on Christmas day in 1497 it was named “Terra do Natal,” which is Portuguese for Christmas Country. The Portuguese already had a well established port at Maputo and didn’t see the significance of building another in an area that was surrounded by mangrove swamps and thick coastal forest. It was the English colonists in the Cape that first saw the allurement of the large natural shelter and settled here in 1824. Until then it used mainly as a bay that pirates would use to hide in, the only ships that regularly dropped keep up in a place and made landings on the beach were ivory and slave traders.

Henry Fynn a British merchant reached an agreement with King Shaka that allowed them to set up a trading stop at the then named “Port Natal.” The settlement was named Durban in 1835 after the then governor of the Cape Sir Benjamin D’urban. In 1837 a delegation of Voortrekkers rule by Piet Retief negotiated with Dingane for a tract of land on which to build a Boer settlement, Dingane afterward had the whole delegation killed; skirmishes ensued, with the Boers defeating the Zulus at the battle of Blood River. The Boers started their settlement in the area outside Durban and laid claim to the town of Durban itself, this understandably upset the British in the Cape who sent troops to Natal, the British were defeated by the Boers at the battle of Congella in 1842. The following year though the British were able to obtain their dominance in Natal and the Voortrekkers moved north into the Orange Free State and the Transvaal.

In 1844 Durban and Natal was incorporated into the British colony that was established in The Cape and was set to become one of the busiest sea ports in the world. At the end of the nineteenth century sugar production in Natal started booming and the port in Durban became the biggest sugar cane terminus in the world.

At the start of the 20th century Durban along with Cape Town was viewed as “liberal” due to their connection with the British colonies and of all the provinces, Natal and the Cape Province had the most relaxed race related laws. Durban like Cape Town had experienced an arrival of immigrant workers from Asia to work the sugar cane fields.This Asian community is nevertheless noticeable in Durban today.

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