Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Five Most Interesting Conflicts - The Boer Wars

by Hannah Gent
boer war, economics for teens, economics for teenagers, most interesting conflict

In the second of my five articles looking at military conflicts I am going to consider the wars that took place between 1880 and 1902 at the southern tip of Africa called the Boer Wars. 

The word ‘Boer’ is the Dutch word for ‘farmer’.  Dutch farmers had settled in the southern African regions of Orange Free State and the Transvaal in the 1830s having relocated from the Cape region to escape from British Rule there.  When, in the late 1800s the British Crown threatened to annex these two Boer states the Boers decided to defend their independence.

boer war
The Wars were therefore between the British Empire and the two independent Boer Republics; the Oranje Vrijstaat (Orange Free State) and the Republiek van Transvaal (Transvaal Republic). As the name suggests, this conflict was actually more than one war with the first from 1880-1881 being caused by a rebellion by Transvaal Boer farmers against British rule.

The second war from 1899-1902 started when the British rejected the Transvaal ultimatum.  The Transvaal ultimatum stated that British troops on the border should be withdrawn.  In October of 1899, Boer soldiers attacked the British. They started a siege- stopping people from entering or leaving- at the towns of Mafeking and Ladysmith. The British Army took control of most of the area in 1900, but Boer soldiers still attacked them from their homes using guerrilla warfare. The war ended in May 1902.  The British took many prisoners throughout the war and put them in concentration camps.  The concentration camps, as well as the expense of the war and the number of soldiers who had died made this war extremely unpopular in Britain. 75,000 people died in the war, 22,000 from the British Army, and 53,000 Boers, many due to disease.

What I find most interesting about the Boer war was its long-term significance.  The Boer war led to a change in foreign policy, as Britain set out to find more allies and improve world relations, and treaties were signed with Japan, France and Russia.   Furthermore, in the Boer war the Army Medical Corps discovered that 80% of men presenting for service were physically unfit to fight. This was the first time in which the government was forced to take notice of how unhealthy the British population was and ultimately led to the liberal reforms 1900-1910.


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