A poor Dutch outpost in the 17th and 18th centuries, South Africa did not take off economically until the 19th century, when British rule brought greater evenhandedness in the administration of justice, the abolition of slavery, and laws encouraging extraction of the region’s abundant mineral deposits. From colonial days to the post-apartheid present, South Africa’s unique history illustrates-for better or worse-the important role of customs, traditions and codes of conduct in economic development.