Cape Province, or Province of the Cape of Good Hope, a historic region of South Africa located on the southern tip of Africa. It was a British colony called Cape Colony from 1815 to 1910, and the largest of the four provinces of South Africa from 1910 to 1993. Cape Town was its capital and Port Elizabeth a leading commercial center. With the adoption of South Africa's new constitution in 1993 Cape Province was broken up into four new provinces—Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape, and North West.
The original inhabitants of the Cape region were the San and Khoi, whom the Europeans called respectively Bushmen and Hottentots. The first European to reach the area was the Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias, who in 1488 after rounding the Cape of Good Hope landed to replenish the ship with fresh water and food. In 1510, most members of a Portuguese landing party were killed in a battle with the Hottentots, and the Portuguese lost interest in the area.
The Dutch founded the first European settlement in 1652. The Bushmen fled but the Hottentots remained. Many Hottentots died in smallpox epidemics and many others intermarried with the Europeans, and within a few generations Hottentots in the Cape area ceased to exist. During the late 1600's the Dutch settlers were joined by Huguenot (French Protestant) and German immigrants. By the 1700's the European settlers were known as Boers (Dutch for “farmers”).
The British seized the Cape area in 1795, but returned it to the Dutch in 1802. In 1806 they occupied the region again; under the provisions of the Congress of Vienna (1814–15), they were given permanent possession. British settlers began entering Cape Colony in 1820.
Conflict between the British settlers and the Boers developed in the 1830's. In 1836 the Boers started migrating northward to escape British rule. This migration became known as the Great Trek and led to the formation of two Boer republics—Orange Free State and Transvaal. During the remainder of the century the British expanded the boundaries of Cape Colony to the north and to the east.
Orange Free State and Transvaal were made British colonies following their defeat by the British in the Boer War, 1899–1902. In 1910 Cape Colony joined with the neighboring British colony of Natal and with Orange Free State and Transvaal to form the Union of South Africa, a British dominion.