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Boers in combat (1881).
Two Boer wars known in Afrikaans as Vryheidsoorlogen [lit. "freedom wars"]) were fought, for expansion of the British Empire, between the United Kingdommarker and the two independent Boer republics, the Orange Free Statemarker 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

The 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 Transvaalmarker, and re-established an independent republic.

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 Africa. 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 since.

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 allies. To this end, the 1902 treaty with Japanmarker 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 Francemarker ("Entente cordiale") and Russiamarker, caused partially by the controversy surrounding the Boer War, were major factors in dictating how the battle lines were drawn during World War One.

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.

See also

Biographical articles

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  • Davenport, T. R. H., and Christopher Saunders (2000). South Africa: A Modern History, 5th ed. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0312233760.
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  • 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: 72-90478.

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