it doesn’t matter anymore: the empire trudges on

Nothing was quite the same after the same after the peace treaty of Vereeniging in 1902. The British won the war, of course, but the protracted guerrilla campaign, the sordid anti-climax of it all, the thousands of death on both sides by disease rather than battle, robbed the victory of exhilaration. The army, shaken by its defeats and not much reassured by its heavy handed successes, was drastically reorganized. The empire proceeded more soberly, more thoughtfully, more tentatively on its way, searching in vain for closer ties and more permanent unities. Never again did the British go to war with the old eclat.

—An Ambush, Boer War
by William Barnes Wollen
Date painted: c.1900
Oil on panel, 20.5 x 27 cm
Collection: National Army Museum
During the Boer War (1899–1902) the Boers preferred ambush to other methods of combat as it minimized casualties. They disliked hand-to-hand fighting, and their traditional method of attack was to lie in wait among the rocks on a kopje (hill), behind which their horses would be held ready. —Read More:

The peace settlement was widely greeted as generaous, especially by the British, since it gave the Boers full equality within a South African union of all four European colonies. In this as in much else, though, the Boer War was deceptive. The British hoped to establish a secure, British dominated South Africa, to get a firm grip on its gold, and to ensure some measure of fair play for the native African peoples of the country. The Boers hoped natural evolution would give them mastery, in the end, not merely of their own territories but of all South Africa, with complete control of its wealth and with the freedom to treat their Black subjects as the Old testament suggested, which in their interpretation, you can imagine. And they, in fact, achieved their goals.

—Charge during the Boer War
by Richard Caton Woodville
Date painted: 1900—Image: —Kipling realised the effect his patriotic fervour had on his reputation. Of the Absent-Minded Beggar, he said, “I would shoot the man who wrote it, if it would not be suicide”. Having witnessed the strains brought upon the troops through poor leadership and training at first hand in South Africa, Kipling’s later works show disillusion with the old aggressive Imperialism that had brought about the conflict. The Dykes from 1902 begins: “We have no heart for the fishing- we have no hand for the oar-/ All that our fathers taught us of old pleases us now no more.”
The popular belief that the English race had been chosen to carry out the work of a Higher Power was reflected in Alfred Austin’s Alfred’s Song. Along with Swinburne and Henley, Austin saw the forces of the Empire as modern knights. That Austin had become the current Poet Laureate shows the hysteria that had engulfed the country, and hundreds of would-be poets tried their hand at producing verse to celebrate England’s supremacy. As Salisbury wrote to Queen Victoria, “It is to the taste of the galleries in the lower class of theatres, and they sing it with vehemence.” Henley’s Song of the Sword established the blade as a Divine instrument to separate the weak from the strong. Swinburne regularly donated work to the papers to rouse the spirit, from Transvaal, with the infamous closing line, “Strike, England, and strike home,” to The Turning of the Tide. There was an early notice of the new mood in poetry after Transvaal’s publication in the Times, after W.H. Colby constructed this reply: “Where are the dogs agape with jaws afoam?/ Where are the wolves? Look, England, look at home.”—Read More:

Although many Afrikaners became enthusiastic supporters of the imperial idea, the victors did not really win. The Boer conviction proved, in the long run, more obdurate than the British. Jehovah lived longer than the queen-empress, and the Boers won the Boer war in the end.


(see link at end)…Scorched Earth and Concentration Camps

The ongoing war started to take a financial toll on the British government. Eventually it was to cost £191 million, a fortune by 1901 standards, and many hundred times that amount in modern times.
The Boers’ guerrilla campaign also took a military toll on the British. Losses mounted and the failure of the blockhouse system to stop the attacks became a serious problem.

—Thers has written a fine denunciation of Josh Trevino, who recently waxed nostalgic over Boer War-style concentration camps (but not Nazi-style ones, so stop saying that!).
Thers ended his post by quoting from Heart of Darkness, not because doing so is particularly clever or original, but because its relevance to current conservative rhetoric is obvious to anyone….Read More:

Exasperated, the British military decided that the only way to halt the Boers’ campaign was to cut off their supplies. To this end, the British built what eventually became forty-five concentration camps, designed to detain the rural Boer population, women and children alike. In addition, the farms were burned down in a scorched earth policy designed to break Boer resistance for once and for all.

The internment policy resulted in the unintended deaths of large numbers of Boer women and children. By the end of the war, some 27,927 deaths were recorded in the camps, 22,074 of whom were children under the age of sixteen. This death toll mea

at just under 15 percent of the Boer population of both republics had died in the camps.

Threat of Extermination Forces Boer Surrender
Although the guerrilla war was reasonably successful (with one commando under the leadership of Boer General Jan Smuts raiding so far behind British lines that they came within sight of Cape Town), the pressures brought to bear by the concentration camps forced them to surrender or face extermination. The decision was taken to halt the guerrilla war and formally surrender, an act which was formalized by the 1902 Treaty of Vereeniging.
Some 7,091 British soldiers were killed in the war, compared to 3,990 Boer soldiers. The military losses were therefore eclipsed by the camp deaths, and it is estimated that the white population of South Africa would have been three times as large as it eventually became, were it not for the civilian causalities during the war. Read More:

(see link at end)…Racist Communists and the Rand Rebellion of 1921

The Communist revolution in Russia which created the Soviet Union served as an inspiration to Communist supporters all over the world, and South Africa was no exception. The South African Communist Party (SACP) was launched by a number of prominent South African Jews in Cape Town (where Karl Marx’s sister had made her home and where a local newspaper had been the world’s first commercial publication to publish any of Marx’s articles) and soon became committed to revolutionary activity.

At this time, however, no one, not even the Communists, gave serious consideration to black political involvement. As a result, when the gold mining industry decided to replace white laborers with black and Chinese workers in 1921, the SACP was one of the first to stand up for the rights of the white workers.

Tensions between the miners and the captains of industry heightened and the involvement of the SACP added a political dimension which elevated the conflict to more than just an industrial dispute. A miners’ strike escalated into a major uprising, which involved an attempted coup d’etat by armed workers. The rebellion was launched by the SACP under the banner “Workers Unite for a White South Africa.” The slogan was for long afterward a great source of embarrassment for the SACP, which later became one of the strongest proponents for black rule.

The Rand Rebellion was suppressed by the army and the police in a major military operation which involved the bombing of rebel strongholds in Johannesburg by the fledgling South African Air Force—the only time in history that city was bombarded from the air.Read More:


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