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Colony of Natal

Flag of Natal
Coat of arms of Natal
Coat of arms
Status British colony
Capital Pietermaritzburg
Common languages Afrikaans, English, Zulu
Anglican, Dutch Reformed, Hindu, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic
Government Constitutional monarchy
Special Commissioner  
• 1843
Henry Cloete
Historical era Scramble for Africa
• Established
4 May 1843
• Annexed Zululand
• Disestablished
• Natal Province est.
31 May 1910
1904 91,610 km2 (35,370 sq mi)
• 1904
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Natalia Republic
Zulu Kingdom
Union of South Africa
Today part of  South Africa

The Colony of Natal was a British colony in south-eastern Africa. It was proclaimed a British colony on 4 May 1843 after the British government had annexed the Boer Republic of Natalia, and on 31 May 1910 combined with three other colonies to form the Union of South Africa, as one of its provinces. It is now the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. The Indians who were brought to this country from India called it 'Netaal Tapu' (island of Netal).

It was originally only about half the size of the present province, with the north-eastern boundaries being formed by the Tugela and Buffalo rivers beyond which lay the independent Kingdom of Zululand (KwaZulu in Zulu). The present province was also enlarged by the addition of Griqualand East to the south.

Défense de Rorke's Drift
Detail of a painting depicting the Battle of Rorke's Drift during the Anglo-Zulu War 11 January – 4 July 1879

Fierce conflict with the Zulu population led to the evacuation of Durban, and eventually the Boers accepted British annexation in 1844 under military pressure. A British governor was appointed to the region and many settlers emigrated from Europe and the Cape Colony. The British established a sugar cane industry in the 1860s. Farm owners had a difficult time attracting Zulu labourers to work on their plantations, so the British brought thousands of indentured labourers from India. As a result of the importation of Indian labourers, Durban became the home to the largest concentration of Indians outside of India.

Growth of the colony

The colony's early population growth was driven by settlement from the United Kingdom between 1849 and 1851, with approximately 4500 emigrants between 1848 and 1851. From the time of the coming of the first considerable body of British settlers dates the development of trade and agriculture in the colony, followed somewhat later by the exploitation of the mineral resources of the country.

Sugar and Indian Labourers

First public auction of Natal sugar, Durban, 1855

As early as 1893, when Mahatma Gandhi arrived in Durban, Indians made up almost half of the non-African population, and by 1904 Indians outnumbered whites in Natal. In 1894, Gandhi helped to establish the Natal Indian Congress to fight discrimination against Indians.

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