Natal, a British colony on the SE. coast of Africa, formerly part of the Cape settlement, was erected into a separate colony in 1856. Zulu-land (10,461 sq. m.) was added in 1897, and after the Boer war (1902) part of the Transvaal (Utrecht, Vryheid, and part of Wakkeistroom districts, in all 6970 sq. m.) was also added, making a total of 35,306 square miles, with a seaboard of about 360 miles, and extending inland to the Drakens-berg or Qwathlamba Mountains. Durban, its port and largest town, lies 800 miles ENE. of the Cape of Good Hope. The coast-region, extending for 30 miles inland, is highly fertile, the climate being subtropical and healthy. In 1856 the cultivation of the sugar-cane was introduced on the coast, and besides supplying all South Africa, the colony exports sugar to England. The immigration of Indian coolies for sugar culture began in 1863, and in 1891 there were 35,000 coolies in the colony with their attendant traders. The Assam tea-plant was successfully introduced in 1877. Coffee and tobacco have been reared, as have also indigo, arrowroot, and ginger. All tropical fruits thrive well. The midland terrace is more fit for the cereals and usual European crops ; while on the higher plateaus along the foot of the mountains are immense tracts of the finest pasturage for cattle and sheep. The climate is very healthy; the thermometer ranges between 90° and 38° F., but the heat even in summer is seldom oppressive. The mean annual temperature at Pietermaritzburg, the capital, is 64.7l°. The winter begins in April and ends in September. In summer thunder-storms are very frequent and severe in the uplands. The annual rainfall averages nearly 40 inches, the greatest fall being in summer. The colony has one admirable harbour in Durban (q.v.) or Port Natal. The Tugela, Buffalo, Umkomanzi, Um-geni, Umzimkulu, and Mooi rivers have permanent streams, and though not navigable, are often available for irrigating purposes. The area of the coal-measures is estimated at 1400 sq. m. Copper has been found, and much is hoped from the iron near the coal. The colony is also believed to be rich in asbestos, mica, and plumbago, and some gold has been obtained. Great forests of fine timber abound in the mountain-passes. A railway runs through the colony to the Orange Colony and Transvaal. The government is now representative, the first colonial ministry being constituted in the end of 1893. The law is a modification of old Dutch law. Natal's chief exports are bullion, wool, sugar, tea, and coal. The value of exports by sea in 1903 was £3,302,818 (besides £8,007,673 by land, principally to the Transvaal), and the imports by sea, £16,221,617. In 1903 the revenue was £4,334,175, and expenditure £5,039,003. The trade is mainly with the mother-country, also with Australia, India, and North and South America. In 1876 the pop. numbered 326,957 (20,490 whites); in 1904, 1,108,754, including 97,109 whites, 100,918 Indian coolies, and 895,641 natives. Eland and harte-beest are the only big game left; the hippopotamus and alligator are found in some of the rivers. Snakes are plentiful.
Natal was discovered by Vasco de Gama in 1497, on Christmas Day (hence its name). A large body of discontented Boers from Cape Colony settled in the country in 1837, but after a short struggle and long negotiations with the Cape authorities, accepted British rule, the malcontents migrating to Transvaal. Natal was annexed in 1843, made part of Cape Colony in 1844, and constituted a distinct colony in 1855. In 1865 the Colenso case threw the Anglican church into embarrassments. In 1873 the chief Langalibalele was suppressed ; and Natal suffered severely in connection with the Zulu war (1879), the Transvaal war (1881), and the Boer war (1899-1902).
See books by Brooks (1869), Peace, Noble, and Bird (1889), others quoted at Cape Colony, and the blue-books and almanacs.