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Labourer or Settler - Colonial Natal's  Indian Dilemma     1860 - 1897

by Duncan Dubois ...R190

Labourer or Settler addresses the question of how, neither by accident nor design, Natal became home to over 50,000 Indian Immigrants during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Duncan Dubois recounts how, from 1860, at the request of fewer than 50  sugar planters, colonial Natal embarked on a labour dispensation  which significantly transformed its character

Comments by:Tony Leon and Prof. Goolam Vahed

 DuBois resigns from Democratic Alliance

 “Effective 3 August 2016, I resigned from the DA having been a member since 29 November 2000. My decision to leave the DA was very much part of my decision not to stand for a fourth term as Bluff ward councillor..........".  Read more

 

DuBois reviews his term of office

 In terms of length of service, my four terms as ward councillor 1991-1996 and 2001-2016, constitute the second longest period in office for a Bluff representative after the late Louis De Beer who represented the Bluff on Council for 22 years – from 1966 to 1988.       Read More

Duncan Du Bois (1953-)

A lifelong resident of the Bluff area of Durban, he retired from school teaching in 2010 after 34 years. In 1989 he completed a MA thesis titled ‘Sir John Robinson, the Mercury and the Indian Question’ at the University of Natal. 2011 saw the publication of  his book Labourer or Settler? Colonial Natal’s Indian Dilemma 1860-1897. In 2011 he returned to UKZN as a fulltime student and completed his Ph.D dissertation in 2013 titled ‘Sugar and Settlers: the colonization of the Natal South Coast 1850-1910.’ After reworking the thesis and adding additional material, it was published in 2015 as Sugar and Settlers: A History of the Natal South Coast 1850-1910. In recent years he has had academic articles published in Natalia, Historia, Nidan – Journal of Hindu Studies and in New Contree. Besides his involvement in education, he has served four terms as a municipal councillor representing the Bluff in both the former Durban City Council and the eThekwini Metro.

AN ACADEMIC

With the exception of a number of hagiographies, that is, works that are generally uncritical about an individual or a family, the colonial South Coast is a largely unstudied region. As such it made an ideal Ph.D topic in terms of its scope and relevance. I was also inspired to undertake the study as a consequence  of many happy times spent on on the South Coast as a child.  

I commenced background reading in the latter part of 2010 and worked almost daily on it from the beginning of 2011 until late November 2013 when I submitted the completed dissertation at UKZN. A work of this nature involves performing three tasks virtually simultaneously: ongoing research in either the Archives or at a repository such as Killie Campbell, collating information already gathered and drafting it into a new chapter while revising drafts returned by my supervisor for correction or refinement. The bulk of my research findings were gleaned from unpublished records housed in the Pietermaritzburg Archives  

After completing the dissertation, I re-worked it by adding a chapter, removing theoretical material which is required for higher degrees and including additional material as well as images and illustrations. The manuscript was accepted by Sun Press Media in Bloemfontein for publication. It then took nearly a year of editing, adding material, proof reading and tweaking before the book emerged in printed form in September 2015.  

I have always been academically inclined and have a lifelong interest in history. Once retiring from school teaching in 2010, I was able to plunge headlong into research and writing which I still pursue on almost a daily basis.

Sugar and Settlers by Dr Duncan Du Bois

From a wealth of archival sources, Du eruditely narrates what is arguably the seminal chronicle of the South Coast's development. He comprehensively unravels the kaleidoscope of personalities and unpacks the various interests that impact on this otherwise parochial backwater. Black Africans, white settlers, Indian labourers competed for the agrarian "playing field" that was dominated by sugar cultivation.

 - Dr Scott Everett Couper -Author of Albert Luthuli: Bound by Faith

Duncan Du Bois provides a detailed and fascinating history of a hitherto much neglected part of what was the colony of Natal. Based primarily on original archival research, he traces the southward advance of the white settler frontier settler and its sugar-based economy from Isipingo to the  Mzimkulu river and, without the sugar engine, to the Mtamvuna.

This study, highlights challenges faced by the settler enterprise which were not unique to that particular region, but crucial in shaping history. These included rugged geography, slow infrastructural development, insufficient investment capital and a heavy demand for labour to meet the needs of plantation agriculture. The settler economy's relations with the reliance on indigenous African people and imported Indian workers therefore constitute further dimensions of the book.

As such it is a valuable addition to the history of white settlement and its impact, both human and environmental, on southern Africa - 

W.R.(Bill) Guest - Professor Emeritus Historical Studies, University of KwaZulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg