oa Fundamina : A Journal of Legal History - The remarkable survival of Roman-Dutch law in nineteenth-century South Africa

Volume 18, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1021-545X
  • E-ISSN: 2411-7870



In this article various matters concerning the South African legal system during the nineteenth century are discussed. Historically it is an interesting and important period, and a brief overview of the legal systems and practices in the Cape and Natal Colonies, as well as the Boer republics is provided. Although Roman-Dutch law was acknowledged as the common law of the whole country, English law was applied widely in the Colonies whilst, in the Boer Republics, legislation was promulgated which laid down that Roman-Dutch law would be the principal law of the new Republics. The tension between English law and Roman-Dutch law is discussed, as well as reasons for the strong influence English law exerted in the whole of South Africa and the unexpected strong stance of Roman-Dutch law. It is concluded that the survival of Roman-Dutch law is indeed remarkable, and that its growth and continued existence may be attributed to its equitable spirit and practical adaptability.

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