Crossing the remote, southern tip of Africa has fired the imagination of European travellers from the time Bartholomew Dias opened up the passage to the East by rounding the Cape of Good Hope in 1488. Dutch, British, French, Danes, and Swedes formed an endless stream of seafarers who made the long journey southwards in pursuit of wealth, adventure, science, and missionary, as well as outright national, interest. Beginning by considering the early hunter-gatherer inhabitants of the Cape and their culture, Malcolm Jack focuses in his account on the encounter that the European visitors had with the Khoisan peoples, sometimes sympathetic but often exploitative from the time of the Portuguese to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833. This commercial and colonial background is key to understanding the development of the vibrant city that is modern Cape Town, as well as the rich diversity of the Cape hinterland.
Malcolm Jack is an author, critic and university lecturer. His books include Corruption & Progress: the Eighteenth-Century Debate (1989); William Beckford: An English Fidalgo (1996); Sintra: A Glorious Eden (2002); and Lisbon: City of the Sea (2007). Brought up in Hong Kong, he had a career in the British Parliament and also writes and advises on constitutional matters. He is a contributor to the Bulletin of the National Library of South Africa, Cape Town where he has a home. He was appointed KCB in 2011 and FSA in 2012.