The Second Boer War

The Second Boer War

Background of the War

  • The Second Boer War took place from 1899 to 1902 in South Africa.
  • It was fought between Britain and the two Boer states, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State.
  • The war was triggered by geopolitical and economic factors; primarily Britain’s desire to secure its interests in the valuable gold mines in the Transvaal region.
  • The Boers were Afrikaners, descendants of Dutch, French and German settlers, and saw British rule as a threat to their independence and culture.

Causes of the War

  • The Jameson Raid of 1895, led by British colonialist Leander Starr Jameson, was a failed attempt to overthrow the Transvaal government and was a major factor leading to the war.
  • Boers felt threatened by the Uitlanders, foreign workers (mainly British) in the goldfields who demanded equal political rights.
  • Boer leaders, including President Paul Kruger, took a defiant stance against British demands, escalating tensions.

Course of the War

  • The war began with the Siege of Ladysmith, where Boer forces surrounded and besieged the city, a key British base in Natal.
  • The Black Week, in December 1899, saw a series of major British military defeats.
  • Britain eventually won the war by implementing the scorched earth policy - destroying farms and Boer towns to prevent enemy support.
  • They also established concentration camps, where many Boer women and children died due to the inhumane conditions.

Aftermath of the War

  • The Treaty of Vereeniging, signed in 1902, officially ended the war.
  • The Boer republics were incorporated into the British Empire, helping to unify South Africa under British rule.
  • The harsh methods used by the British drew international condemnation, and influenced the future conduct of warfare.
  • In Britain, the war exposed weaknesses in the army and prompted military reforms ahead of World War I.

Impact on British Politics

  • The war caused divisions in Britain; the Conservative Party, led by PM Lord Salisbury, supported the war, while the Liberal Party opposed it.
  • Negative public reaction to the concentration camps contributed to the Conservative Party’s defeat in the 1906 General Election.
  • The war contributed to the rise of radical liberalism and increased calls for social reform in Britain.