A great trek

A trekker family

The Great Trek was partly an orderly mass rebellion against a breakdown of security that the participants considered intolerable. W.H. Coetzer drew this trekker family.

Two streams of Afrikaner migrants left the colony in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. The first was an emigration of people called trekboers, who moved across the border as individual families in search of better pasture; the others moved in trek parties and emphasised political issues. They would later be called Voortrekkers.

Their trek was a bold and dramatic response to a political crisis that had engulfed the eastern and northeastern districts of the Cape Colony from the mid-1820s to the end of the 1830s. It was fairly orderly mass rebellion against a breakdown of security that the participants considered intolerable. Many also moved because all the land in the frontier districts had been taken. Thus the trek was also a solution to a material problem.

Why they left

Lack of land

Lack of labour

Lack of security

Political marginalisation

‘A strange and moving spectacle’

Into the interior

Trouble within

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