Travellers' accounts

Francois le Vaillant: Travels into the interior of Africa via the Cape of Good Hope. Vol II

2022-04-09T13:00:58+00:00November 14th, 2021|

This volume of Le Vaillant’s Travels continues the narrative of his journey, begun in Volume 1, from the time of his arrival at Kok’s Kraal on the banks of the Great Fish River, where he pitched camp and remained from 12 October until 4 December 1782. This sojourn of two months was the longest time that Le Vaillant remained in any one place during the entirety of his journey

Hendrik Swellengrebel in Africa. Journals of Three Journeys in 1776-1777

2021-03-17T20:53:56+00:00June 25th, 2018|

Hendrik Swellengrebel was born at the Cape on 26 November 1734, the fifth child of Hendrik Swellengrebel Snr, at the time the Secretary of the Council of Policy, but from 1739 Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, and of Helena Wilhelmina ten Damme. After bidding farewell to his parents on 25 March 1746, Hendrik Jr travelled as an eleven-year-old boy to the Netherlands with the return fleet. Already then, his father intended to return to the Netherlands eventually. He had four sons and three daughters – what future did the Cape offer those children? So, he sent his sons to the Netherlands to further their studies. After their arrival there, they were taken care of by Rev. J. Schermer and his wife in Utrecht. Hendrik attended the Latin school and afterwards read law at Utrecht University. Not yet 21 years old, he completed his studies in 1755 and after that established himself as an attorney and also became a canon in the chapter at the Cathedral. In 1775 Hendrik Swellengrebel embarked on the VOC ship Alkemade, to pay a visit to the land of his birth, at that time no ordinary undertaking. The reasons for this visit were never explicitly revealed by him so far as is known. Certainly a desire to see his country of birth again played a role in this. Yet, it is not impossible that he also played with the idea of establishing himself at the Cape. His interest in the possibilities – including financial ones – offered by farming there, evident in his travel accounts and in his exchange of letters in the years thereafter, point in that direction. At the Cape, in 1776-1777, Hendrik made three journeys through the interior of the Cape of Good Hope, once even as far as the land of the Xhosa. His journals of these three journeys and the accompanying drawings commissioned by him were not published in his day and remained lying in the family archives in the Netherlands for over one-and-a-half centuries. In 1932 Dr E.C. Godée Molsbergen published ‘Journal of an overland journey that the undersigned Pieter Cloete made with Mr Hendrik Swellengrebel Esq. in the year 1776’, which he had found in the archive of the eighteenth Governor of the Cape, Joachim van Plettenberg, but which constituted only a brief summary of one of those journeys. The drawings themselves only became known even later, thanks to a publication in 1951 by A. Hallema, Die Kaap in 1776-1777. Akwarelle van Johannes Schumacher uit die Swellengrebel-Argief te Breda (The Cape in 1775-1777. Water Colours of Johannes Schumacher from the Swellengrebel Archive in Breda).

‘An Entirely Different World’: Russian Visitors to the Cape 1797-1870

2022-06-05T19:50:50+00:00July 24th, 2015|

The Russian view of the Cape as represented in this volume may be unique. During the period in question, Russia had no cultural, political or economic ties with South Africa. Russians saw the Cape only as a convenient stopover en route to the Far East, to their country’s distant domains that could not be reached by sea otherwise. The Cape was one of the ‘exotic’ lands they would visit on such journeys, their first and only introduction to the African continent. Although amazed and perplexed by the ‘entirely different world’ they found here, Russian travellers would often draw unexpected parallels between life in their motherland and the realities of the Cape Colony. The selections include memoirs of such important Russian personalities as Yuri Lisyansky, Vasily Golovnin, Ivan Goncharov and Konstantin Posyet. Most of the texts appear in English for the first time.

The South African Letters of Thomas Pringle

2020-08-11T20:58:07+00:00November 24th, 2011|

Thomas Pringle (1789–1834) is remembered as ‘the father of English poetry’ in this country, as leader of the only Scottish settler party in 1820 and as a champion of the freedom of the press. He had an earlier career as founding editor of Blackwood’s Magazine in Edinburgh and a later one as man of letters in London and secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society. The abolition of slavery in the British Empire came into force in August 1834 but, crippled since infancy and suffering from tuberculosis, he died in December 1834, aged only 45. In South Africa he worked for the relief of the hard-pressed settlers, the emancipation of the Khoisan and protection of the Xhosa on the frontier from retaliatory commando raids. In Cape Town he ran the South African Public Library, edited, with his friend John Fairbairn, the Cape’s first independent newspaper and the bi-monthly South African Journal, and established a successful ‘classical and commercial academy’ until all were brought down by the hostility of the Governor, Lord Charles Somerset. He fought back but, financially ruined, returned to his final career in Britain. His papers, sent to Cape Town by his widow Margaret, were lost but surviving letters in other collections here bring to life the character, outlook and South African career of a notable figure in our history.

Francois le Vaillant: Travels into the interior of Africa via the Cape of Good Hope. Vol I

2021-10-06T09:41:43+00:00July 24th, 2007|

In 1780 the young Francois Vaillant set out from Holland for the Cape to collect specimens of birds and animals. His account of his travels, which was published widely during the revolutionary period, became an influential piece of writing about South Africa, popular throughout Europe and reflected many Enlightenment attitudes.I t was the first highly critical account of Dutch colonialism and the brutality of settler expansion.

The Journal of Gustav de Vylder, naturalist in South-Western Africa 1873-1875

2021-02-23T21:38:02+00:00July 24th, 1997|

Gustav de Vylder, a Swedish naturalist, journeyed through Namibia from 1873 to 1875, collecting insects and other natural-history specimens for institutions in his home country. His travels were undertaken some years before the German colonial occupation when the European presence was slight. De Vylder's journal is a record of an adventurous journey, personal encounters and conditions in what was then considered to be a remote region. He was a man of his age, but had some advanced and provocative views.

Johan August Wahlberg: Travel Journals and from letters, South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, 1838-1856

2021-02-24T10:03:10+00:00July 24th, 1992|

Johan August Wahlberg (1810-1856), a Swedish naturalist, travelled through much of southern Africa, including Natal and Namibia, before the mid-19th century. He had been chosen by the Swedish Academy of Sciences to collect plants and animals in southern Africa for the Natural History Museum in Stockholm. His account of his travels is often terse and businesslike but his accounts of the people he encountered are usually fair and open-minded.

The Commissions of W.C. Palgrave Special Emissary to South West Africa, 1876-1885

2021-02-24T08:40:48+00:00July 24th, 1990|

William Coates Palgrave (1833-1897) was active in South West Africa (Namibia) for 25 years. As Special Commissioner to Hereroland and Namaland, he undertook 5 consecutive commissions to that country on behalf of the Cape government. This volume, containing the official journals, or minutes and reports produced during the commissions, records the life of a country on the brink of colonisation.

Carl Peter Thunberg. Travels at the Cape of Good Hope 1772-1775

2021-02-07T10:53:04+00:00July 24th, 1986|

Carl Peter Thunberg (1743), a Swede and disciple of the renowned botanist, Linnaeus the elder, was the first university graduate to travel extensively in the Cape interior, preceding the expedition of his compatriot, Anders Sparrman. Apart from recounting his three journeys - two to the Eastern Cape as far as the Sundays River, and one to the Roggeveld - he spent some time in the vicinity of Cape Town, describing the social life and customs of the inhabitants, colonial, slave and indigene.

William Somerville’s narrative of his journeys to the Eastern Cape frontier and to Lattakoe 1799-1802

2022-08-26T15:56:39+00:00July 24th, 1979|

William Somerville, an Edinburgh doctor, accompanied the invading forces of Major-General Craig when the British took the Cape in 1795. He remained at the Cape for some years, accompanying Major-General Dundas to the eastern districts during the height of conflict on the frontier. Subsequently he accompanied an expedition to the Orange River. On both occasions he recorded the cultures of the indigenous people whom he met, and the flora and fauna.

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