Free State

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Free State,

formerly Orange Free State, province (2011 pop. 2,745,590), 50,126 sq mi (129,825 sq km), E central South AfricaSouth Africa,
Afrikaans Suid-Afrika, officially Republic of South Africa, republic (2015 est. pop. 55,291,000), 471,359 sq mi (1,220,813 sq km), S Africa. It borders on the Atlantic Ocean in the west, on Namibia in the northwest, on Botswana and Zimbabwe in the north, on
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. It was renamed Free State shortly after the 1994 post-apartheid constitution went into effect. Free State is bounded by North West on the northwest, Gauteng on the north, Mpumalanga on the northeast, KwaZulu-Natal on the east, Lesotho and Eastern Cape on the south, and Northern Cape on the west.

, city, judicial capital of South Africa, capital of Free State prov., and seat of Mangaung metropolitan municipality. It is a transportation hub and industrial center, containing railroad workshops, food-processing plants, and factories that produce furniture,
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 is the capital and largest city; other important cities include BethlehemBethlehem,
town, Free State prov., E central South Africa, part and seat of Dihlabeng local municipality. It is situated in a farming and livestock area and has industries producing furniture and food products.
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 and KroonstadKroonstad
, city, part and seat of Moqhaka local municipality, Free State prov., E central South Africa, on the Vals River. It is an agricultural and industrial center. There are grain elevators, and grain is shipped from the town.
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. The province lies between the Vaal River in the north and the Orange River in the south. It is chiefly a plateau, rising gradually from c.4,000 ft (1,220 m) in the west to c.6,000 ft (1,830 m) in the east; there are higher elevations in the Drakensberg Range in the southeast.

The economy is mainly agricultural; sunflowers, corn, wheat, sorghum, potatoes, cherries, asparagus, and cut flowers are grown, and sheep and cattle are raised. Gold mining also is important, and silver, uranium, diamonds, and coal are mined as well. Synthetic rubber, fertilizers, plastics, textiles, and processed foods are manufactured, and oil is refined from coal. Bloemfontein is the province's road and rail hub. The main languages are Sesotho, Afrikaans, and Xhosa.

In the early 19th cent. the Orange Free State was inhabited mainly by the Bantu-speaking Tswana people. Afrikaner farmers (BoersBoer
[Du.,=farmer], inhabitant of South Africa of Dutch or French Huguenot descent. Boers are also known as Afrikaners. They first settled (1652) near the Cape of Good Hope in what was formerly Cape Province.
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) entered the territory from the 1820s; after 1835 their immigration accelerated (see Trek, GreatTrek, Great
, the journey by Afrikaner farmers (Boers) who left the Cape Colony to escape British domination and eventually founded Natal, Transvaal, and the Orange Free State. Trek is an Afrikaans term, originally meaning a journey by ox wagon.
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). In 1848 the British, who then held Cape Colony and Natal, annexed the region as the Orange River Sovereignty. After conflicts with the Boers and failure to establish an orderly administration, Britain, by the Bloemfontein Convention (1854), granted the territory independence as the Orange Free State. With the increased tension following the raid into the TransvaalTransvaal
, former province, NE South Africa. With the new constitution of 1994, it was divided into Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga), Northern Transvaal (now Limpopo), Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Veereeniging (now Gauteng), and part of North West prov.
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 (1895–96), led by L. S. Jameson, the Free State was drawn into the conflict between Britons and Boers that resulted in the South African WarSouth African War
or Boer War,
1899–1902, war of the South African Republic (Transvaal) and the Orange Free State against Great Britain. Background
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 (1899–1902). The British again annexed the Free State, as the Orange River Colony, in 1900. In 1907 the colony was granted self-government, and in 1910 it became a founding province of the Union (now Republic) of South Africa.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Free State

1. a province of central South Africa; replaced the former province of Orange Free State in 1994: gold and uranium mining. Capital: Bloemfontein. Pop.: 2 950 661 (2004 est.). Area: 129 480 sq. km (49 992 sq. miles)
2. US History (before the Civil War) any state prohibiting slavery
3. short for the Irish Free State
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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