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Second Boer War

 

 


 




 The Second Boer War (Dutch: Tweede Boerenoorlog, Afrikaans: Tweede Vryheidsoorlog or Tweede Boereoorlog) was fought from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902 between the British Empire and the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch settlers of two independent Boer republics, the South African Republic (Transvaal Republic) and the Orange Free State. It ended with a British victory and the annexation of both republics to the British Empire; both would eventually be incorporated into the Union of South Africa, a dominion of the British Empire, in 1910. The conflict is commonly referred to as The Boer War but is also known as the South African War outside South Africa, the Anglo-Boer War among most South Africans, and in Afrikaans as the Anglo-Boereoorlog or Tweede Vryheidsoorlog ("Second War of Liberation" or lit. "Second Freedom War") or the Engelse oorlog (English War)

The Second Boer War and the earlier, much less well known, First Boer War (December 1880 to March 1881) are collectively known as the Boer Wars.


  The origins of the war were complex, resulting from over a century of conflict between the Boers and the British Empire.During the Napoleonic Wars, a British expedition landed in the Cape Colony and defeated the defending Dutch forces at the Battle of Blaauwberg.[8] After the wars, the British formally acquired the colony, and encouraged immigration by British settlers who were largely at odds with the Dutch settlers. Over subsequent decades, many Boers who were dissatisfied with aspects of the British administration elected to migrate away from British rule in what became known as the Great Trek. The migration was initially along the eastern coast towards Natal and then, after Natal was annexed in 1843, northwards towards the interior, where two independent Boer republics (the South African Republic, also known as the Transvaal Republic, and the Orange Free State) 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 in 1880–81. After British defeats, most heavily at the Battle of Majuba Hill, the independence of the two republics was restored subject to certain conditions, but relations were uneasy.



  In 1871, diamonds had been discovered at Kimberley, prompting a diamond rush and a massive influx of foreigners to the borders of the Orange Free State. Then, gold was discovered in the South African Republic in 1886. Gold made the Transvaal the richest and potentially the most powerful nation in southern Africa; however, the country had neither the manpower nor the industrial base to develop the resource on its own. As a result, the Transvaal reluctantly acquiesced to the immigration of fresh waves of uitlanders (foreigners), mainly from Britain, who came to the Boer region in search of employment and fortune. This resulted in the number of uitlanders in the Transvaal eventually exceeding the number of Boers, and precipitated confrontations between the earlier-arrived Boer settlers and the newer, non-Boer arrivals.



  British expansionist ideas (notably propagated by Cecil Rhodes) as well as 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, was intended to encourage an uprising of the uitlanders in Johannesburg. However, the uitlanders did not take up arms to support the raid, and Transvaal government forces surrounded the column and captured Jameson's men before they could reach Johannesburg.



  As tensions escalated from the local to the national level, there were political manoeuvrings and lengthy negotiations to reach a compromise over the issues of the rights of the uitlanders within the white community, the rights of the original non-white population, 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 that the more recent arrivals (mostly of British origin) already represented a majority of the white community in Johannesburg, and that new uitlanders were continually arriving, the Boers recognised that granting full voting rights to the uitlanders would eventually result in the loss of ethnic Boer control over the South African Republic. The negotiations failed, and in September 1899 British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain sent an ultimatum to the Boers, demanding full equality for those uitlanders resident in the Transvaal. Paul Kruger, the President of the South African Republic, 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. Both sides rejected the others' ultimatums, and the Transvaal and Orange Free State governments declared war.

 The war had three distinct phases. In the first phase, 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, Magersfontein and Spionkop against a failed British counteroffensive to relieve the three sieges.

 In the second phase, after the introduction of greatly increased British troop numbers under the command of Lord Roberts, the British launched another offensive in 1900 to relieve the sieges, this time achieving success. After Natal and the Cape Colony were secure, the British were able to invade the Transvaal, and the republic's capital, Pretoria, was ultimately captured in June 1900.

 In the third and final phase, beginning in March 1900, the Boers launched a protracted hard-fought guerrilla war against the British forces, lasting a further two years, 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.


 Some parts of the British press and British government expected the campaign to be over within months, and the protracted war gradually became less popular, especially after revelations about the conditions in the concentration camps (where tens of thousands of women and children died of disease and malnutrition). The Boer forces finally surrendered on Saturday, 31 May 1902, with 54 of the 60 delegates from the Transvaal and Orange Free State voting to accept the terms of the peace treaty. This was known as the Treaty of Vereeniging, and under its provisions, the two republics were absorbed into the British Empire, with the promise of limited self-government in the future. This promise was fulfilled with the creation of the Union of South Africa in 1910.


 The war had a lasting effect on the region and on British domestic politics. For Britain, the Second Boer War was the longest, the most expensive (over £200 million), and the bloodiest conflict between 1815 and 1914, lasting three months longer and resulting in higher British casualties than the Crimean War (1853–56).


 The southern part of the African continent was dominated in the 19th century by a set of struggles to create within it a single unified state. While the Berlin Conference of 1884–5 sought to draw boundaries between the European powers' African possessions, it also set the stage for further scrambles. The British attempted to annexe first the South African Republic in 1880, and then, in 1899, both the South African Republic and the Orange Free State. In 1868, the British annexed Basutoland in the Drakensberg Mountains following an appeal from Moshesh, the leader of a mixed group of African refugees from the Zulu wars, who sought British protection against the Boers. In the 1880s, Bechuanaland (modern Botswana, located north of the Orange River) became the object of a dispute between the Germans to the west, the Boers to the east, and the British Cape Colony to the south. Although Bechuanaland had no economic value, the "Missionaries Road" passed through it towards territory farther north. After the Germans annexed Damaraland and Namaqualand (modern Namibia) in 1884, the British annexed Bechuanaland in 1885.



  In the First Boer War of 1880–81 the Boers of the Transvaal Republic had proved skilful fighters in resisting the British attempt at annexation, in causing in a series of British defeats. The British government of William Ewart Gladstone had been unwilling to become bemired in a distant war, which required substantial troop reinforcement and expense, for what was at the time perceived to be a minimal return. An armistice followed, ending the war, and subsequently a peace treaty was signed with the Transvaal President Paul Kruger.



  However, when, in 1886, a major gold field was discovered at an outcrop on a large ridge some sixty kilometres south of the Boer capital at Pretoria, it reignited British imperial interests. The ridge, known locally as the "Witwatersrand" (literally "white water ridge"–a watershed) contained the world's largest deposit of gold-bearing ore. Although it was not as rich as gold finds in Canada and Australia, its consistency made it especially well-suited to industrial mining methods. With the 1886 discovery of gold in the Transvaal, the resulting gold rush brought thousands of British and other prospectors and settlers from across the globe and over the border from the Cape Colony (under British control since 1806).



  The city of Johannesburg sprang up as a shanty town nearly overnight as the uitlanders ("foreigners," meaning non-Boer whites) poured in and settled around the mines. The influx was such that the uitlanders quickly outnumbered the Boers in Johannesburg and along the Rand, although they remained a minority in the Transvaal as a whole. The Boers, nervous and resentful of the uitlanders' growing presence, sought to contain their influence through requiring lengthy residential qualifying periods before voting rights could be obtained, by imposing taxes on the gold industry, and by introducing controls through licensing, tariffs and administrative requirements. Among the issues giving rise to tension between the Transvaal government on the one hand, and the Uitlanders and British interests on the other, were


   Established uitlanders, including the mining magnates, wanted political, social, and economic control over their lives. These rights included a stable constitution, a fair franchise law, an independent judiciary, and a better educational system. The Boers, for their part, recognised that the more concessions they made to the uitlanders the greater the likelihood–with approximately 30,000 white male Boer voters and potentially 60,000 white male uitlanders–that their independent control of the Transvaal would be lost and the territory absorbed into the British Empire.



  The uitlanders resented the taxes levied by the Transvaal government, particularly when this money was not spent on Johannesburg or uitlander interests, but diverted to projects elsewhere in the Transvaal. For example, as the gold-bearing ore sloped away from the outcrop underground to the south, more and more blasting was necessary for extraction, and mines consumed vast quantities of explosives. A box of dynamite costing five pounds included five shillings tax. Not only was this tax perceived as exorbitant, but British interests were offended when President Paul Kruger gave monopoly rights for the manufacture of the explosive to a non-British branch of the Nobel company, which infuriated the British.The so-called "dynamite monopoly" became a major pretext for war.



  British imperial interests were alarmed when in 1894–95 Kruger proposed building a railway through Portuguese East Africa to Delagoa Bay, bypassing British controlled ports in Natal and Cape Town and avoiding British tariffs.At the time the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony was Cecil Rhodes, a man driven by a vision of a British controlled Africa extending from Cape to Cairo.

 

  Certain self-appointed uitlanders representatives and British mine owners became increasingly angered and frustrated by their dealings with the Transvaal government. A Reform Committee (Transvaal) was formed to represent the uitlanders.










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