For many years, especially during the 1970s and 1980s, it became endemic amongst South African
historians to lay the blame on legal segregation (or Apartheid) as it is called here, on capitalism.
Segregation, it was argued, arose only after the discovery of diamonds in Griqualand West in 1868 and
of gold on the Witwatersrand in 1886. Before that there was some quirky, shadowy form of segregation
which some liked to call neo-feudalism.
A study of the development of segregation at the Eastern Cape port of East London shows clearly that
there is no truth behind this argument. East London, a pre-industrial port until about the 1930s, developed
a clearly demarcated system of legal segregation as early as 1848. Moreover, the model used at this port
came to be copied by many other towns and cities throughout South Africa. Indeed, to a large degree
East London's model formed the blue-print for urban segregation in the early 20th century.
This cyber-book, in exploring the evolution of the Black community at East London, aims at explaining
carefully how this was so. It documents the changes that occurred in the location system from the arrival
of the first white settlers at East London, taking the history through to the passing of the Natives (Urban
Areas) Act in 1923 which for the first time legalised urban segregation throughout South Africa. In doing
so, it attempts to show not only how legal segregation was a reality in South Africa long before the
industrial revolution, but also the pivotal role that East London played in blue-printing the system for the
rest of urban South Africa.