Although there has been a continuous Irish presence at the Cape of Good Hope since the late eighteenth century, the chroniclers of the Irish diaspora have until the late 1980s ignored the continent of Africa. This was in part because relatively few Irish migrants ventured to Africa, but it is also the consequence of two other factors. The vast majority of Irish immigrants to Africa in the nineteenth century went to South Africa, a region which, with some exceptions, has been academically isolated for a generation. Then within South Africa there is much still to be learnt about the nature of English-speaking society in the region. While the meticulous analysis of black and Afrikaner history and society, and of related economic history, has dominated South African historiography for some two decades, professional academics have too often left the field of South African English-speaking studies to the amateur historian and the antiquarian. Thus what in Canada or Australia would be regarded as mainline historical research has in South Africa been sidelined in the name of historical relevancy. In fact an analysis of Irish settlement in southern Africa fills an important gap in the general survey of Irish emigration to the empire and reveals a pattern of Irish settlement very different from other regions of Irish migration.