AfrikanerSouth African of Calvinist Dutch, German, Huguenot or Belgian extraction, speaking Afrikaans, a language derived principally from the Dutch of the 17th and 18th centuries, with borrowings today from African languages and English.
Afrikaners are descended mostly from white Calvinist settlers who occupied the Cape of Good Hope during the period of administration (1652-1795) by the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC) and the subsequent period of British rule.
The term Afrikaner encompasses disparate communities of white Afrikaans speakers. Originally it distinguished those Dutch speakers who saw themselves as local, i.e. "African", from those who still primarily identified with Europe; it was later used to distinguish between Afrikaans speakers and English speakers among the white population. Its earliest use dates from 1707 but was not widely used until after the Anglo-Boer War of the early 20th century. Prior to then, the various white Afrikaans speaking communities were known as Boers (farmers), Trekboers (the semi-nomadic/migrating farmers of the eastern frontier), Cape Dutch (those who lived in the western Cape) or (Voortrekkers); the pioneers who migrated en masse in a series of migrations later known as the Great Trek.
In the 1830s and 1840s an estimated 12,000 Voortrekkers penetrated the future Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal provinces to put themselves beyond the reach of British authority, in order to escape relentless border wars, British colonialism and its Anglicization polices, as well as to ease pressure on an overcrowding frontier where land was becoming scarce. While some historians claim that these series of migrations, later known as the Great Trek, was caused because the Boers did not agree with the British restrictions on slavery, most Trek-Boers did not own slaves, unlike their more affluent cousins in the western Cape who did not migrate or participate in the Great Trek. The vast majority of Voortrekkers were Trek-Boers from the eastern Cape who engaged in pastoralism. Nevertheless, the British promulgation of Ordinance 50 in 1828, which guaranteed equal rights before the law to all "free persons of color", was indeed a factor in Boer discontent, as is well documented by numerous contemporary sources; the various shortlived republics founded by the Voortrekkers would all enshrine inequality by race into their constitutions.
The Great Trek was mainly the result of the "bursting of the dam" of pent up population migration and population pressures, as Trek-Boer migrations eastward had come to a virtual stop for at least three decades (though some Trek-Boers did migrate beyond the Orange River prior to the Great Trek). During the great trek they fought with the Zulus (after Voortrekker leaders Piet Retief and Gerhard Maritz, along with almost half of their followers, were killed by Dingaan and his warriors after initially signing a land treaty with them), who at the time occupied the areas the Boers were trekking into.
The Boers established independent states in what is now South Africa, Natalia / Transvaal (the South African Republic) and the Orange Free State. The English wish to extend their colonial empire to the Boer areas led to the two Boer Wars of 1880-1881 and 1899-1902, which ended with the inclusion of the Boer areas in the British colonies. Following the British annexation of the Boer republics, the creation of the Union of South Africa (1910) went some way towards blurring the division between British settler and Afrikaner. The black majority, however, was excluded from equal participation in the affairs of the country until 1994 owing to the Afrikaner political leadership's policy of apartheid (the Afrikaans word for "aparthood" or "separation"), particularly under the National Party from 1948.