One of the independent Boer states of South Africa, occasionally a British colony, and from 1910 one of the four provinces of the Union of South Africa. In the 1994 major provincial reorganization its boundaries were retained but in the following year it was renamed simply Free State.
Boer trekkers had settled in the the region of the Orange River by 1836, naming it for the Dutch ruling House of Orange. They named their new territory the Orange Free State (Afrikaans name Oranje Vrystaat). Between 1848 and 1854 it was under British rule, under the name of the Orange River Sovereignty, but in that latter year the independence of the Boer republic was restored.
In 1900/1901 it was once more annexed to the British crown, in the course of the Boer Wars, and in 1902 renamed the Orange River Colony. It gained responsible self-government in 1907, and in 1910 was one of the four founding provinces of the British dominion of South Africa, once more under its name of Orange Free State.
The capital is Bloemfontein, the area about 130 000 km2, and the population (1995 estimate) about 2 800 000. The Free State is entirely inland, north-west of Lesotho.