Reviewed by Alan Drysdall RDP, RDPSA, FRPS.
This is a meticulously researched account making extensive use of primary sources of information which is evident from the extensive bibliography of a fascinating short period in the history of the colonisation of southern Africa. In order to overcome a labour shortage, Chinese indentured labour on three year contracts was employed on the gold mines of the Rand from 1904 to 1910. The total number of Chinese recruited exceeded 63,000, but the scheme had limited success as recruitment proved difficult and expensive, the living conditions were basic, not all the men were prepared to work underground and there were inevitable further problems arising from endemic gambling habits, opium addiction and the almost complete absence of women. There were also objections at a political level, particularly by the Liberal Party in the UK, with much talk of slave labour, hence the comparatively short life of the scheme, which was eventually terminated by the Transvaal Government. The author lists systematically, according to the publisher, just over a hundred cards, more than half of which are illustrated in colour, showing various scenes involving the Chinese including individual portraits, the ships used to transport the men, groups working on the mines, living conditions and aspects of Chinese culture. Although arrangements were made for a mail service only 11 covers sent from China to the Rand have been recorded and are briefly described. No covers sent to China are known. For those interested in the social philately of southern Africa, this book is a “must have”.