In this masterly work of synthesis and reinterpretation, Timothy Keegan looks anew at the relatively neglected period of South African history before the mineral age- in particular the years of British rule up to the 1850s- and decisively establishes its importance in the shaping of South African society. For whereas a previous generation of historians saw the twentieth-century racial state emerging from forces unleashed by the mineral revolution, Keegan argues that its roots lie in an earlier period, when the cape was first inegrated into the British empire of free trade of the early nineteenth century.