Boers in combat (1881).
Two Boer wars known in Afrikaans
Vryheidsoorlogen [lit. "freedom wars"]) were fought, for expansion
of the British Empire, between the
Kingdom and the two independent Boer
republics, the Orange Free
State and the South
African Republic (Transvaal Republic), founded by settlers
known as Voortrekkers who made the
Great Trek from the Cape Colony.
First Anglo-Boer War
First Anglo-Boer War (1880–1881),
also known as the "Transvaal War," was a relatively brief conflict
in which Boer settlers successfully resisted a British attempt to
annex the Transvaal, and re-established an independent
Second Anglo-Boer War
The Second Anglo-Boer War (1899- 1902), by contrast, was a lengthy
war - involving large numbers of troops from many British
possessions - which ended with the conversion of the Boer republics
into British colonies (with a promise of limited self-government
). These colonies later
formed part of the Union of South
. Unlike many colonial conflicts, the Boer War lasted
three years and was very bloody. The British fought directly
against the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The bloodshed that
was seen during the war was alarming and many of the British
soldiers faced unfit conditions.
Controversy and significance
During the Second Boer War, Britain pursued the policy of rounding
up and isolating the Boer civilian population into concentration camps
. The wives and
children of Boer guerrillas were sent to these camps with poor
hygiene and little food, although this was remedied to some extent
as time went on. The death and suffering of the civilians,
according to many scholars, is what broke the guerrillas' will. The
"pacification" theory has been repeated many times in warfare
The Second Boer War was a major turning point in British history,
due to world reaction over the anti-insurgency tactics the British
army used in the region. This led to a change in approach to
foreign policy from Britain who now set about looking for more
this end, the 1902 treaty with Japan in
particular was a sign that Britain feared attack on its Far Eastern
empire and saw this alliance as an opportunity to strengthen its
stance in the Far East.
This war led to a change from
"splendid isolation" policy to a policy that involved looking for
allies and improving world relations. Later treaties with
cordiale") and Russia, caused
partially by the controversy surrounding the Boer War, were major
factors in dictating how the battle lines were drawn during World
The Boer War also had another significance. The Army Medical Corps
discovered that 40% of men called up for duty were physically unfit
to fight. This was the first time in which the government was
forced to take notice of how unfit the British Army was. This led
to individual investigations by Booth and Rowntree into the poverty
in Britain, and ultimately gave the Liberals ideas on which to base
their Welfare reforms, beginning in 1906.
- Lord Baden-Powell, the founder
of the Boy Scouts, was a general, and
achieved fame with his defence of
- Frederick Russell
Burnham, the British Army Chief of Scouts, was twice captured
and twice escaped. He was the highest decorated American to serve
in the war
- Winston Churchill served in
the British Army as a lieutenant along side Jasbir Sokhal, and was
a prisoner of war and war correspondent, later prime minister of the
- Arthur Conan Doyle served as
a doctor, and saw more soldiers die of fever than of actual war
wounds. Better known now as a fiction writer, whose stories of
Sherlock Holmes had already garnered
him enduring international fame, he later became a historian as
well; his history of the Boer
Wars garnered him a knighthood from Edward VII.
- John French,
Ian Hamilton and
Horace Smith-Dorrien, later
British commanders who were generals in World War I
- Mahatma Gandhi served in the
Ambulance Corps, later leader of the Indian independence
- George Frederick Ives, a
trooper in the Imperial Yeomanry. . He died in 1993, the last
surviving veteran of the (Second) Boer War
- Horatio Herbert
Kitchener was Secretary
of State for War.
- Breaker Morant was an Australian
- Jan Smuts, a Boer guerrilla leader,
was later Prime Minister of South Africa, a Field Marshal in the
British Army and in the Imperial War Cabinet. The only man to sign
the peace treaties ending both the First and Second World Wars, he
was involved in the foundation of both the League of Nations and
the United Nations.
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- Davenport, T. R. H., and Christopher Saunders (2000). South
Africa: A Modern History, 5th ed. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN
- Doyle, A. Conan (1902). The Great Boer War. Toronto: George
N. Morang & Company.
- Jackson, Tabitha (1999). The Boer War. Basingstoke,
U.K.: Channel 4 Books/Macmillan. ISBN 075221702X.
- Judd, Denis, and Keith Surridge (2003). The Boer War.
Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan. . ISBN 0719561698
- Pakenham, Thomas
(1979). The Boer War. New York: Random House. ISBN
- Plaatje, Sol T. (1990). Mafeking
Diary: A Black Man’s View of a White Man's War. Ohio
University Press. ISBN 0821409441.
- Reitz, Deneys (1930). Commando: A Boer Journal of the Boer War.
London: Faber and Faber. . ISBN 1432612239 (2005 reissue).
- Riall, Nicholas (2000) "Boer War: The Letters, Diaries and
Photographs of Malcolm Riall from the War in South Africa.", ISBN
- van Hartesveldt, Fred R. (2000). The Boer War.
Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313306273.
- Woods, Frederick (1972). Young Winston's Wars; The Original
Despatches of Winston S. Churchill War Correspondent,
1897-1900. New York: The Viking Press, Inc. ISBN 9780670795154
(Published in 1973). Library of Congress catalog card number: