denver webb on martial law in british kaffraria


Denver A. Webb, ‘More Than Just a Public Execution: Martial Law, Crime and the Nature of Colonial Power in British Kaffraria’, South African Historical Journal (2012).

This article starts with a hanging and ends with the passing of a colony. It uses the first judicial public execution in King William’s Town in 1858 to explore how colonial processes played themselves out at local level. It examines three interrelated themes: the ad hoc nature of the establishment of colonial hegemony in British Kaffraria, especially with regard to the administration of law in dealing with ‘grave’ crimes; how the influx of white settlers, particularly German mercenaries, placed pressure on the rudimentary colonial legal system and resulted in further improvised measures to deal with them; and how efforts to establish more substantial institutions of government and attempts to foster a sense of Kaffrarian identity ultimately foundered on the incorporation of British Kaffraria into the Cape Colony.

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