Whilst browsing the 1881 census for members of my mother’s ancestral family, I came across a rather disturbing census entry for Weymouth in 1881. Here we have a surgeon and his wife, both originally from Dorchester in Dorset, whose children were born in South Africa. The children, who are 12, 7 and 4 have a nursemaid. The shocking thing is that this nursemaid is 11, a Zulu girl taken from her homeland, and given the appallingly degrading name of “Jumbo”. And to make it worse for this child, torn from home and her own culture, she’s described as a kleptomaniac.
I find it very hard to see this as anything other than a case of slavery in Dorset, more than 50 years after the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. But then, South Africa was always a different story when it came to the treatment of native peoples by white colonialists.