n Historia - A neglected era in Cape history brought to light
Twee Kaapse Lewens: Henricus en Aletta Beck en die Samelewing van hul Tyd, 1702-1755, Karel Schoeman : book review

Volume 60, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0018-229X



This book is the sixth of an eight part series entitled , which according to the publisher will cover the entire history of the Cape settlement during the time it was ruled by the Dutch East India Company (VOC). This volume is about the first half of the eighteenth century. In his foreword, Schoeman notes that he had wanted to write a book about siblings Henricus and Aletta Beck for a long time, not because they were outstanding or important, but mainly because there is so much fragmentary information available about them that one is able to reconstruct their lives rather as one would a puzzle. Schoeman does this well and a good idea emerges of who the Becks were. It seems that Aletta was the more interesting of the two. She appears as an intelligent and strong woman; had she lived in a time when women were not as subordinate, she would probably have achieved more for herself. Brother Henricus took the easy route in life. He lived and travelled on his mother's pocket for a long time before deciding to study. And as a Dutch Reformed minister in the Cape settlement he was not known for his engaging sermons; nor was he eager to become involved with the members of his congregation. Despite the title, this book is not a biography. Schoeman uses the lives of the Becks as a means to an end, namely to describe the Cape settlement, its society, and its place in the wider Dutch colonial world.

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