In South Africa, as elsewhere, illegitimacy has been identified as an important focus of inquiry respecting the history of sexual behavior and family formation. Illegitimacy and prenuptial pregnancy increased significantly in Europe from the late 1700s until c. 1845. Cape Town was tied to Europe by the flow of immigrants, by incorporation in its trading networks, and by the modes of governance which were imported from the Netherlands and, after 1806, from Britain. Inevitably, there was some correspondence with respect to the incidence of, and the responses by church and state to out-of-wedlock births. Nevertheless, distinctive "patterns of family formation and sexuality" emerged from the complex demography and social relations which were particular to Cape Town from the point of European settlement, in 1652, to the immediate aftermath of slave emancipation in 1838. This article asks: what is the evidence for illegitimacy within relationships of concubinage and promiscuity? Do the records of cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births reveal trends over time? How did the law treat extra-marital reproduction, and what sanctions did the church apply? Finally, what conclusions respecting family formation in Cape Town, until the mid-1800s, does the evidence suggest?


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