The South African political landscape from 1854 onwards was characterized by diverse constantly changing borders. European colonial settlement, mainly by the British and Dutch, had created a plethora of small colonies of varying size and degrees of autonomy that existed alongside pre-existing indigenous kingdoms. The largest state in the region was the Cape Colony whose population mainly consisted of British settlers and Dutch settlers who had arrived earlier. The government of the Cape Colony started out with surprisingly liberal values and equal rights for varying ethnic groups, however British imperialist Cecil Rhodes set in motion the beginnings of the divisive apartheid system. Transvaal in the east, which was controlled by Dutch settlers, fought in the Boer wars as the British Empire tried to extend its reach in the area. Land across the region was gradually annexed by Britain until it was conglomerated in the Union of South Africa in 1910.
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