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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Children for ewes: child indenture in the post-emancipation Great Karoo: c. 1856-1909
Author:Van Sittert, LanceISNI
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies (ISSN 1465-3893)
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:child labour
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/03057070.2016.1199394
Abstract:While the employment of child labour in the Cape Colony under slavery is well known, the same cannot be said for the post-emancipation period, despite the hinge masters and servants ordinance of 1841 governing the new free labour market legitimating employment of two categories of child labour: those indentured by their parents, and 'destitute children' indentured by the state. Both groups left paper trails. That of destitute children is easier to follow because they had to be advertised in the press, but a few scattered sets of contracts of 'indenture of apprenticeship by parents' (IAP) survive in the archives of the colonial magistrates. The article offers a close reading of the destitute children advertisements and IAP contract archive for one such magistracy: that of Colesberg in the Great Karoo in the second half of the 19th century. It traces patterns in the aggregate demography, form and features of the more than 250 IAP contracts signed in the magistracy over this period to demonstrate the gendered nature of child indenture, its relation to and dampening effect on adult wage rates, and its contributions to reproducing proletarian households in the commercialising pastoral economy of the Great Karoo. In so doing, it troubles two prevailing assumptions about the post-emancipation Cape labour market: that settler employers dictated the terms of exchange through coercion, and that the proletarian household was a haven from such exploitation. It detects evidence for both the patrimonial exchange and parental exploitation of proletarian children. Finally, the article offers a corrective to the scholarship on the invention of colonial childhood in the final quarter of the 19th century, based exclusively on the white middle-class experience of the south-western Cape, by suggesting that post-emancipation black childhood was without formal education or indolent adolescence, but rather an apprenticeship in labour. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]