Interpreting South African cultural clashes through Darwinian eyes: Ramsden Balmforth in Cape Town (1902–1911)

18 January 2013

The Cape Town minister, literary critic, and reformer, Ramsden Balmforth, sought to promote reconciliation between cultures and ethnic groups in South Africa for four decades after emigrating from England in 1897. Although deeply rooted in the social egalitarianism of the Fabian Society, he nevertheless adopted and propagated modified, social Darwinist views, which he believed, if properly understood, could be applied to reforms in South Africa and ameliorate clashes of cultures there. After unsuccessfully attempting to forestall war in 1899, Balmforth argued for an acceptance of what would soon be known as Afrikaans culture as no less worthy and civilised than that of the British and for the application of a radically adapted version of social Darwinism to conflicts between white and black South Africans.