Labourer or Settler


Colonial Natal's  Indian Dilemma 1860 - 1897

by Duncan Du Bois ...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


Race Relations Pioneer

Written by Duncan Du Bois

The legacy of Joseph Baynes

Commissioned and published by the Baynesfield Trust in 2016, this 56 page booklet reveals that not all Natal’s colonial figures were indifferent to the plight of Africans and Indians.


In this age of anti-colonial sentiment. Duncan Du Bois' research has unearthed evidence of colonial Natal agriculturist, Joseph Baynes' evolution as a pioneer in the liberalisation of race relations and a fearless proponent of humanitarian values.

Records demonstrate that Joseph Baynes was a formidable opponent of injustice. He did not shy away from defending the rights of those who were marginalised. As Chairman of the Indian Immigration Trust Board and as a member of the Natal Parliament, he fought for justice and fair play.

Although his extensive farming operation would not have allowed him the time, with his understanding of African affairs and his rapport with Africans, it might be said the he was the best Secretary for Native Affairs Natal ever had


Contact the Baynesfield Trust for 033 251 0044


Sugar and Settlers

by Dr Duncan Du Bois

From a wealth of archival sources, Du Bois 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



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Portraits of Colonial Natal

Written by Dr Duncan Du Bois

At a time when a leading politician’s future and footprint has been blighted and disparaged because she attempted to make objective remarks about the legacies of colonialism, the publication of Portraits of Colonial Natal  spurns the ‘decolonisers’ and  without fear or favour provides a wide-ranging account of pioneers, places and prejudices.

Comprising of twelve chapters, Portraits balances settler enterprise, initiatives and hardships with accounts of encroachment on the lands of indigenous peoples and human rights abuses. It also includes a ground-breaking study in the liberalisation of race relations. As stated in its Introduction, all periods of history contain stains of tragedy and legacies of ill-considered policies. As the repository of knowledge and understanding, history can be reviewed and opinions revised but it cannot be erased.

For residents of the South Coast and those interested in that region, Portraits has detailed sketches of life in Umzinto, Umkomaas and Port Shepstone. Anecdotal detail gleaned from colonial newspapers and unpublished correspondence in the Pietermaritzburg Archives revives bygone times and characters.

Portraits also features brief biographies of two pioneers of sugar plantation, Michael Jeffels of Isipingo and James Arbuthnot of the Umzinto district, whose lives and contributions to the fledgling years of Natal have hitherto been neglected.

While the sugar industry was the engine of economic growth on the coast, the role of indentured Indian labour was crucial to that enterprise. Two chapters focus on the experiences of Indians. One examines the abuse of the indentured labourers while the other charts the evolution of prejudice against Indians as settlers and commercial entrepreneurs.

Of particular relevance to those who brand all colonial figures as irredeemable bigots, the chapter on Midlands agriculturist and politician, Joseph Baynes, challenges that view.


Bluff Peninsula: and random history and road name register

by Duncan Du Bois This 81 page book contains 34 historical images, several of which were sourced from the Local History Museum in Aliwal St. Durban. Although by no means an exhaustive account of the Bluff's  annals, the book attempts to provide a perspective on the evolution of the Bluff  from the time when it was a backwater outpost to its evolution as a suburb of the City of Durban from 1932. As such, the book provides parameters for future research to fill out and expand upon. The contents follows a chronological direction from colonial times to the 1980s. The information provided was sourced from the Pietermaritzburg Archives and the Killie Campbell Library.

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In researching and compiling the book, historian Duncan Du Bois points out that, like any history, the book constitutes a modest footprint without which our heritage would be poorer.  

A limited number of copies have been printed and are available at R100 per copy. - Contact Duncan for delivery details: