History of the Boer War. Volumes I & II.

By Cassell

Printed: 1903

Publisher: Cassell & Company.

Dimensions 21 × 25 × 7 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 21 x 25 x 7


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Tan leather spine and corners with gilt banding and title. Navy textured boards.

The Second Boer War (October 1899 – 31 May 1902), also known as the Boer War, the Anglo-Boer War, or the South African War, was fought between the British Empire and two independent Boer states, the South African Republic (Republic of Transvaal) and the Orange Free State, over the Empire’s influence in South Africa. The trigger of the war was the discovery of diamonds and gold in the Boer states. Initial Boer attacks were successful, and although British reinforcements later reversed these, the war continued for years with Boer guerrilla warfare, until harsh British countermeasures including a scorched earth policy brought the Boers to terms.

A few British colonies existed nearby. The Boer War can be understood to have formally started with well-armed Boer irregulars and militia striking first, against towns in those colonies. They besieged Ladysmith, Kimberley, and Mafeking in early 1900, and winning important battles at Colenso, Magersfontein and Stormberg. Surprised, under-prepared, and overconfident, the British responded bringing in modest numbers of soldiers and fought back with little initial success. Leadership and tactics changed when General Redvers Buller was replaced by Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener. They relieved the three besieged cities and invaded the two Boer republics in late 1900. The onward marches of the British Army, well over 400,000 men, were so overwhelming that the Boers did not fight staged battles in defence of their homelands.

The British army seized control of all of the Orange Free State and Transvaal, as Kruger and others in the Boer government went into hiding or fled the country. In conventional terms, the war was over. The British officially annexed the two countries in 1900. Back home, Britain’s Conservative government wanted to capitalize on this success to call an early general election, dubbed by some the “khaki election”. British military efforts were aided by Cape Colony, the Colony of Natal, Rhodesia, and some native African allies, and further supported by volunteers from the British Empire, including southern Africa, the Australian colonies, Canada, India and New Zealand. Other nations remained neutral with opinion often being hostile to the British. Inside the British Empire there also was significant opposition to the Second Boer War. As a result, the Boer cause attracted volunteers from neutral countries as well as from parts of the British Empire such as Ireland.

The Boers refused to surrender. They reverted to guerrilla warfare, under new generals Louis Botha, Jan Smuts, Christiaan de Wet, and Koos de la Rey, in a campaign of surprise attacks and quick escapes lasting almost two years before defeat.

As guerrillas without uniforms, the Boer fighters easily blended into the farmlands, which provided hiding places, supplies, and horses. The British response to guerrilla warfare was to set up complex nets of blockhouses, strongpoints, and barbed wire fences, partitioning off the entire conquered territory. In addition, civilian farms and livestock were destroyed as part of a scorched earth policy. Survivors were forced into concentration camps. Very large proportions of these civilians died of hunger and disease, especially the children.

British-mounted infantry units systematically tracked down the highly mobile Boer guerrilla units. The battles at this stage were small operations. Few died during combat, though many perished of disease. The war ended when the Boer leadership surrendered and accepted British terms with the Treaty of Vereeniging in May 1902. The former republics were turned into the Transvaal and Orange River colonies, and shortly thereafter merged with aforementioned Cape and Natal Colonies into the Union of South Africa in 1910, as part of the British Empire.

The war marked the beginning of the British Empire’s power and level of prosperity being brought into question, with the long duration of the war and the early losses to the “cobbled-together army” of Boers being unforeseen and discouraging.

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