• Kalpana Hiralal University of KwaZuluNatal



Joseph Devasayagem Royeppen, Anglican, political activist, satyagraha, Indian, South African, Christian


This article documents the contributions of Joseph Royeppen, a colonial born Christian activist in South Africa at the turn of the century. Royeppen was a barrister, passive resister and a devout Christian. He was the first colonial born Indian to study law at Cambridge and played an important role in mobilising support for Indian grievances whilst in England. He participated in the first satyagraha campaign in South Africa and endured imprisonment. Yet in the vast corpus of historical literature on South Africans of Indian descent he is given minimal recognition. This paper seeks to rectify this omission by documenting his contributions to the first satyagraha campaign that occurred in the Transvaal between 1907-1911. Royeppen, in his fight against oppression and inequality, embraced multiple roles: an eloquent student, barrister, devout Christian, hawker, passive resister and labourer. He mediated among these varying roles and in the process highlighted not only strength in character but dignity in protest action. A colonial born Indian, he was highly critical of the colonial and British governments and challenged their attempts to deny citizenship rights to South Africans of Indian descent. Joseph Royeppen’s narrative is significant because it highlights the role and contributions of colonial born Indians, in particular the educated elite, to the early political struggles in South Africa. In many ways, they were an important, influential and active constituency in South Africa’s road to democracy.


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How to Cite

Hiralal, Kalpana. 2016. “JOSEPH DEVASAYAGEM ROYEPPEN (1871-1960): THE ANGLICAN, COLONIAL BORN POLITICAL ACTIVIST”. Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae 42 (2):87-104.



Received 2016-05-09
Accepted 2016-09-05
Published 2016-12-08