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1902 - Boer war

Boer War Ends - Since 1899 the British Empire had been fighting two Boer states - the South African Republic and the Orange Free State - over the Empire's influence in South Africa

The war in South Africa was the first major conflict of a century that was to be marked by wars on an international scale. It demonstrated the inadequacy of 19th century military methods and raised issues of whether conscription should be brought in and the use of concentration camps.

The war began on October 11 1899, following a Boer ultimatum that the British should cease building up their forces in the region. The Boers had refused to grant political rights to non-Boer settlers, most of whom were British, or to grant civil rights to Africans. Perhaps more important was the underlying question of control over the gold mines of the Transvaal. The war was also about Britain's control of South Africa and therefore its 'great power' status.

Although the war was fought between Briton and Boer, it was not simply a 'white man's war'. Large numbers of Africans and other non-Europeans were involved, whether combatants or in support roles (including Mahatma Gandhi, then living in South Africa, who served as a volunteer stretcher-bearer in 1900), and the lives of many more were affected by the conflict.

The South African War was a 20th century war fought by a British army that was only organised to fight the smaller-scale colonial wars of the 19th . It employed modern weapons - quick-firing rifles with magazines; machine guns, such as the Maxim gun; and terrible new types of high explosive such as lyddite, said to be capable of killing everything within 50 yards of its point of detonation. In its later stages it became a conflict of guerilla warfare and concentration camps for civilians were used to combat these tactics.

Initially the Boers took the initiative, invading the British colonies of Natal and the Cape, where they were joined by Afrikaner sympathisers. British troops were defeated in battle and the key towns of Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley besieged. However, by late February 1900, Ladysmith and Kimberley had been relieved as massive British reinforcements began to turn the tide.

The war ended with the Peace of Vereeniging of May 1902, with the republics becoming crown colonies.  The question of votes for 'natives' would not be raised until the colonies became self-governing (as eventually happened in 1910) but once self-governing, no Boer state would give the vote to Africans. Despite fighting for the British, the black population of South Africa derived little benefit from the war. Indeed, it was the Africans who had to pay the heaviest price in the war and its aftermath.


Further Reading


Irish Times - Brutal Boer War Left a Bitter Special Legacy

ThoughtCo - The Boer War (1899-1902)

1902 - Aborigines

Aborigines in chains at Wyndham prison - Indigenous Australians were subject to forced labor and experienced slavery like conditions

aborigines in chains.jpg

The circumstances and the story behind this picture remain unknown. The Aboriginals could have been arrested under the various local laws passed that forbid them from entering or being within a certain distance of named towns. They could also have been arrested for drinking or owning firearms which was illegal for them at various times. It’s also possible that they have been rounded up to be moved to a reserve areas which were being created at the time and that these individuals did not want to move. It could even be a staged picture for tourists/publicity reasons.

While the Indigenous people of Australia were subject to forced labor and experienced slavery like conditions, there was no slave trading. By the time that the British effectively subdued the indigenous Australian population slave trading was already illegal in the British Empire. Moreover there was no need. While there was a manpower shortage in the early colonial settlements, the colonial government responded by making convict labor available to private individuals.


Further Reading


The Guardian - Sweet Country Review: Brutal Australian Western Soars with Biblical Starkness

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