Episode 143 - The World in 1838, New Veld Tech and Plough Enhancements

This is episode 143 and we’re back in Cape Town, it’s late 1838, our new British Governor Sir George Napier is in the hot seat and he’s already regretting taking up the position.

He was trying to make Andries Stockenstrom’s eastern Cape Treaty System a success and this was not an easy task. Napier’s main pressure however was financial. Before he left Britain, the Colonial office had made it clear that they would not accept another war in the Eastern Cape.

IT had cost the government dearly, 14 years after the English settlers landed the British were forced to defend their subjects during the the Sixth Frontier War. Hundreds of soldiers and their material had cost tens of thousands of pounds. The cost of the colonies was a major factor in the government's financial difficulties. The British Empire was vast and expensive to administer — someone had to pay for the upkeep of the colonial military, the infrastructure, and the salaries of colonial officials.

In the period of 1834-1838, the British government spent an average of £12 million per year on the colonies. This represented a significant portion of the government's budget - in 1837 for example the government spent £12 million on the colonies plus £15 million on the army.

According to the Hansard archive of the House of Commons, the British government's budget in 1838 was £51,524,110 with the largest categories of expenditure the army, navy, and interest on debt. These categories accounted for over 70% of the total budget.

The cost of the colonies had a number of consequences for British politics. Lobby groups were — and remain — a powerful force in British politics, and they opposed any policies that would increase the cost of the colonies, while helping the maintain a system that was dominated by the aristocracy.

Overall, the cost of the colonies was a major factor in the British government's financial difficulties and it also had a significant impact on British politics and the economy in the period of 1834-1838. The British national debt grew significantly in the period from the £796 million to £829 million or 4.2%.

On the other hand, Britain was benefiting from the colonial access to raw materials, such as cotton, sugar, and timber. These were used to support British industries, particularly textiles manufacturing and shipbuilding. Of course, the colonies created new markets for manufactured goods which actually help boost the economy and create jobs as well.

For investors, the entrepreneurs and connected royalty, it was an opportunity to earn large returns from these seized territories by building infrastructure, developing new industries, and starting new ventures. The strategic importance of its colonies also helped England maintain its global power and influence.

For example, Gibraltar was a key naval base that helped England to control the Mediterranean Sea, India was also a key strategic asset, as it helped England to maintain its power and influence in Asia and Cape Town remained a strategic asset on its main supply routes to the far east.

It’s time to cast our eyes further afield, as we do in this series just to understand how southern African events were often part of a much broader scope. This was the period of burgeoning colonial expansion globally and those who lived on the land before the arrival of European settlers were fighting for their survival.

Early settlers could also begin to take advantage of iron based tools being manufactured in Britain - particularly ploughs. There were many examples. Cast iron ploughs for example which were inexpensive to produce although they were relatively brittle.
5 Nov 2023 English South Africa History · Places & Travel

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