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The Transvaal was one of the provinces of South Africa from 1910 until 1994. The province no longer exists, and its territory now forms all, or part of, the provinces of Gauteng, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
The Transvaal region is known to have been inhabited since the 8th century by Venda and Sotho peoples. In 1817, the region was invaded by tribes pushed from their land by the Zulu king Shaka and his Impis. This made the region very weak, and easy to colonize by the nearby Europian settlers.
In the 1830s and the 1840s, Dutch settlers, known as Boers (farmers) or Voortrekkers (pioneers), exited the British Cape Colony, in what was to be called the Great Trek. With their military technology, they overcame the local forces with relative ease, and formed several small Boer republics in areas beyond British control, without a central government.
On January 17, 1852 the United Kingdom signed the Sand River Convention treaty with 5000 or so of the Boer families, recognizing their independence in the region to the north of the Vaal River, or the Transvaal. In 1856 the Boers adopted the name South African Republic for the region, and a new racially-biased constitution was put in place.
In 1877, after the republic faced considerable economic hardship and outside Zulu threats, Britain annexed the Transvaal, hoping that this move would be perceived by the Boers as salvation. But it wasn't - the Boers viewed it as an act of aggression, and protested. In December 16, 1880 the independence of the republic was proclaimed again, leading to the first Boer War. The Pretoria Convention of 1881 gave the Boers self-rule in the Transvaal, under British oversight, and the republic was restored, but not for long. Gold was soon discovered in Witwatersrand (1885), bringing in a rush of non-Boer European settlers (called uitlanders, outlanders, by the Boers). This lead to a destabilization of the republic, and even to talk about getting protection from Germany. Fearing Britain's imminent annexation, the Boers launched a preemptive strike against the nearby British colonies in 1899, a strike which became the second Boer War, a war which the Boers will lose.
By May 1902, the last of the Boer troops surrendered, and the independent Boer republic in the Transvaal was no more - the region became part of the British Empire. In 1910 the Transvaal became a province of the newly created Union of South Africa, a British Dominion. In 1961, the union ceased to be part of the British Commonwealth and became the Republic of South Africa.
In 1994, after South-Africa's first all-race elections, the former provinces and homelands were restructured, and a separate Transvaal province no longer exists. Parts of the old Transvaal now belong to the new Gauteng, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces.
The Transvaal province lied between Vaal River in the south, and the Limpopo River in the north, roughly between 22 1/2 and 27 1/2 S, and 25 and 32 E. To its south it bordered with the Orange Free State and Natal provinces, to its west were the Cape Province and the Bechuanaland Protectorate (later Botswana), to its north Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe), and to its east Portuguese East Africa (later Mozambique) and Swaziland. Except on the south-west, these borders were mostly well defined natural features.