Boer Wars 1895–1902

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Map Code: Ax02053

After Britain’s humiliating defeat in the First Boer War (1880–81), Prime Minister Gladstone had been happy to agree the London Convention (1884) guaranteeing the independence of the Boer South African Republic. Discovery of massive gold deposits in Transvaal (1886) rekindled British imperialism. The Jameson Raid (1895) was an attempt to overthrow the Republic engineered by Cecil Rhodes, then Prime Minister of Cape Colony. It was disastrously botched and its leaders captured, but the episode (and the British government’s tacit support of the raiders) made further war inevitable. The defence of Uitlanders, ‘outsiders’, drawn to prospect for gold, many of whom were British, was used as a pretext for a British military build-up. Responding to the provocation, the Boers declared war in 1899 and, initially, once more outmanoeuvred the British with guerrilla warfare and outperformed them with their superior fast-loading Mauser rifles. Only British Commander Kitchener’s brutal use of concentration camps for civilians as well as his deployment of a scorched earth policy coerced Boer surrender, with Transvaal and Orange Free State becoming British colonies (1902).

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