Second Boer War
The Second Boer War, Afrikaans: Tweede Boereoorlog), commonly referred to as The Boer War and also known as the South African War (outside of South Africa), the Anglo-Boer War (among most South Africans) and in Afrikaans as the Boereoorlog or Tweede Vryheidsoorlog ("Second War of Liberation"), was fought from October 11, 1899 until May 31, 1902, between the British Empire and the two independent Boer republics of the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (Transvaal Republic).
The origins of the war were complex, resulting from over two centuries of conflict between the Boers and the British Empire. The British had, in 1806, during the Napoleonic Wars, taken permanent possession of the Cape Colony and over subsequent decades successive waves of Boers had migrated away from the rule of the British Empire in the Cape Colony, first along the eastern coast towards Natal and then, after Natal was annexed in 1843, northwards towards the interior where two independent Boer republics (the Orange Free State, and the South African Republic - also called the Transvaal) were established. The British recognised the two Boer Republics in 1852 and 1854 but the annexation of the Transvaal in 1877 led to the First Boer War, 1880-1. After British defeats, most heavily at the Battle of Majuba, Transvaal independence was restored subject to certain conditions but relations were uneasy.
When, in 1886, massive deposits of gold were discovered in the Transvaal, a huge inflow of uitlanders (foreigners), mainly from Britain, came to the region in search of employment and fortune. Gold made the Transvaal the richest and potentially the most powerful nation in southern Africa but it also resulted in the number of uitlanders in the Transvaal eventually exceeding the number of Boers and precipitated confrontations over the old order and the new. Disputes over uitlander political and economic rights resulted in the failed Jameson Raid of 1895. This raid led by (and named after) Dr Leander Starr Jameson, the Administrator in Rhodesia of the Chartered Company, was intended to encourage an uprising of the uitlanders in Johannesburg. However Johannesburg failed to rise and Transvaal government forces surrounded the column and captured Jameson's men before they could reach Johannesburg.
As tensions escalated from local to national level, there were political manoeuvrings and lengthy negotiations to reach a compromise ostensibly over the issue of "uitlander rights" but ultimately over control of the gold mining industry and the British desire to incorporate the Transvaal and the Orange Free State in a federation under British control. Given the number of British uitlanders already resident in the Transvaal and the ongoing inflow, the Boers recognised that the franchise policy demanded by the British would inevitably result in the loss of independence of the Transvaal. The negotiations failed, and in September 1899 Joseph Chamberlain (the British Colonial Secretary) sent an ultimatum to the Boers, demanding full equality for those uitlanders resident in the Transvaal. President Kruger, seeing no other option than war, issued his own ultimatum, giving the British 48 hours to withdraw all their troops from the border of the Transvaal, failing which the Transvaal, allied with the Orange Free State, would declare war against the British. The rejection of the ultimatum followed and war was declared.
The war had three distinct phases. First, the Boers mounted pre-emptive strikes into British-held territory in Natal and the Cape Colony, besieging the British garrisons of Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley. The Boers then won a series of tactical victories at Colenso and Spion Kop against a failed British counteroffensive to relieve the three sieges. Second, after the introduction of greatly increased British troop numbers under the command of Lord Roberts, another, and this time successful, British offensive was launched in 1900 to relieve the sieges. After Natal and the Cape Colony were secure, the British were able to invade the Transvaal and the republic's capital, Pretoria, was captured in June 1900.
Finally, beginning in March 1900, the Boers engaged a protracted hard-fought guerrilla warfare against the British forces. This lasted a further eighteen months, during which the Boers raided targets such as British troop columns, telegraph sites, railways and storage depots. In an effort to cut off supplies to the raiders, the British, now under the leadership of Lord Kitchener, responded with a scorched earth policy of destroying Boer farms and moving civilians into concentration camps.
The campaign had been expected by the British government to be over within months, and the protracted war became increasingly unpopular especially after revelations about the conditions in the concentration camps (where thousands died of disease and malnutrition). The demand for peace led to a settlement of hostilities, and in 1902, the Treaty of Vereeniging was signed. The two republics were absorbed into the British Empire, although the British were forced to make a number of concessions and reparations to the Boers. The granting of limited autonomy for the area ultimately led to the establishment of the Union of South Africa. The war had a lasting effect on the region and on British domestic politics. The war, known as the last British imperial war, was the longest (almost three years), the most expensive (over £200 million), and the most disastrous of all wars for Britain between 1815 and 1914.
Of the British force, 22,000 died with 14,000 of them succumbing to sickness. 7,000 Boer fighters died. 28,000 Boers in the British concentration camps died – nearly all of them women and children.
Less politically correct views on the causes of the war
A less often mentioned aspect of the war is role of colonial officials and financiers of mining operations (many of them Jewish) in causing the war. See the "External links" section.
- A Century Ago: The Boer War Remembered
- The Siege of South Africa
- Free to Cheat: “Jewish Emancipation” and the Anglo-Jewish Cousinhood, Part 2