Gender and honour in middle-class Cape Town : the making of colonial identities, 1828-1850
This study comprises an examination of the role of ideas concerning gender roles and respectability in the elaboration of a specific notion of a white colonial middle class in Cape Town, Cape Colony, in the decades before the establishment of Representative Government at the Cape. It pays particular attention to the cultural interaction of the incoming British settlers with the older Dutch society already in place in Cape Town. The insertion of British middle-class ideals of domesticity into Cape society had a decisive impact upon the public culture which would underpin the new political dispensation in the colony when a Representative Assembly was set up in 1853. The thesis argues that the new colonial political order which was enshrined in the constitution of 1853 was grounded upon a new gender order which set out distinctive roles for middle-class men and women and which allowed for the expression of a particular kind of personal and social respectability. Political developments in the Cape colony were thus inextricably tied to the elaboration of this new gendered social system. The thesis approaches the question of white colonial identity through several avenues. These include: the creation of a public sphere and changes in commercial culture; the importance of issues of the family and domestic service in structuring reform initiatives; the nature of male and female honour and its defence through defamation cases; the role of marriage in Cape colonial society; and the mediation of sexual transgressions through religious and civil authorities. Finally, the manner in which domestic ideology impacted upon political culture is approached through two case studies of political crisis during this period. The thesis thus seeks to advance South African historiography by undercutting the traditional division between studies of private and public life at the Cape in this period.