Rights, Interpersonal Violence and Settler Colonialism in Early Nineteenth-Century South Africa: Thomas Pringle and Scottish Colonialism at the Cape, 1820-1834

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Elizabeth Elbourne


Thomas Pringle, a Scottish settler at the Cape Colony and later secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society in England, was both a settler in territory recently conquered from the Xhosa and an advocate against violence on Eastern Cape borderlands. This article examines both aspects of his career in the 1820s and early 1830s, and asks how they relate to one another. While working to put accounts of abuse into trans-imperial circulation, Pringle was caught up in the structures of settler colonialism at the Cape, including militarization and the quest for African labour. The evidence he provided was nonetheless politically significant. The article places Pringle’s work in the context of a larger history of the development of human rights and their interaction with both humanitarianism and colonialism. The article further asks what difference, if any, Pringle’s Scottishness made to his own sense of identity, political activity and views of colonialism.

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Special Feature: Scotland, Scots, and the Indian Ocean World (Articles)