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Many forces have interacted in the Eastern Cape. Incoming Afrikaners and British met with Xhosa-speakers in the eighteenth century, and the long process of conflict, followed by the subordination and expropriation of the indigenous people, took place over more that one hundred years.
An important British base at this time, named after a military officer , and a small town of Alice grew near its environs. The process of colonization and expropriation was paradoxical. Brutal military conquest, and integration of the population into the colonial economy, was accompanied by the spread of Christianity.
The missionaries who carried the new ideas were themselves part of colonial expansion, but brought with them a creed which was taken by Africans and forged into a tool for grappling with the challenges of the colonial world. The South African Native College, later the University of Fort Hare, was, ironically, founded in 1916 on the site of the earlier British military stronghold. The college originated from the sometimes uneasy alliance between the new class of educated African Christians, supported by a number of traditional Southern African leaders, and early twentieth-century white liberals, many of them clergy.