Dutch contexts of Cape burgher protests
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This article seeks to emphasise the notion that the Cape settlement of the VOC period needs to be studied within the context of the Dutch world and not in isolation. In recent research, empires are seen more as a collection of nodes than structures of a centre with peripheries. Each node can be part of several networks, which contribute to the shaping of that node. When applied to the Cape settlement this concept makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of Cape society and its residents. The Cape was a complex society in which several different groups lived together. Each of these experienced their environment in another manner influenced by the networks they were part of, and each of these made their own contribution to the shaping of the Cape settlement. This article focuses on the burgher group and especially those burghers from the middle and upper layers. These burghers were the ones who were mostly exposed to the many connections of the Cape with the Netherlands through for instance religion, education, enterprise, the justice system, and travel. As a result, they came to regard themselves as burghers of the United Netherlands who were entitled to all the rights and privileges of that status. The VOC administration did not agree and argued that all were subjects of the Company. The position on both sides of the conflict needs to be referenced to the larger framework of the Dutch world. As such this clash is a practical example of how the Cape during the Dutch period can only really be understood as part of a larger context which shows that the Cape, although perhaps unique and atypical, ultimately was part and parcel of the Dutch trading empire and its networks.
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