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Major Conflict between England and the 2 Boer Republics of Transvaal: Historical Essay on Boer War

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The first major conflict between England and the 2 Boer republics of Transvaal (African Republic) and Orange Free State in Southern Africa that is marked on an international scale, most frequently referred to as the Boer War, commenced on 11th October 1899 and terminated on 31st May 1902. Lasting a total of 2 years, 7 months, 2 weeks and 6 days. This war from 121 years ago is also often called many names such as the Second Anglo-Boer War, South African War, Second South African War, Second War for Freedom, or the English War. It was also was called the ‘last gentleman’s war’ which refers to 2 industrialised nations fighting instead of 1 industrialised nation easily defeating a defenceless nation (a nation who has yet to industrialise), and more commonly as the ‘white man’s war’, because of supposed non-involvement of Africans and assumed by historian and author Rayne Kruger in his book of Good-Bye Dolly Gray, 1959, described a phenomenon, so singular and astonishing, of a war, fought across the breadth of a vast region, the majority of whose inhabitants were mere spectators. This was England’s last great colonial conflict and most expensive war (more than 200 million pounds spent), it was an important event for its contribution to World War I and the impacts it made in South Africa after.

The later studies indicate that the conflict was a version of civil war that involved the entire population of the South of Africa and caused fractures in the African society. People of colour fought on all sides, under pressure and/or conviction, and suffered greatly from an army who nearly had 6 times more than them in numbers (South Africa had approx. 88 000 people and Britain had approx. 500 000 men). The earth contained diamonds, gold and other precious metals that were greatly sought after. They played prominent roles in the foundation of the conflict, along with race, nationalism and international power, however, compared to class and gender, they remained subliminal.

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Three people have been held responsible for the start of the Boer War; Joseph Chamberlain (leading imperialist), Paul Kruger (president of the South Africa Republic) and Alfred Milner (British High Commissioner in the Cape Colony from 1897-1905). It gives the impression that the British forced the war in 1899 to gain control of Transvaal, the independent republic where Boers had political control and where gold, diamond, etc mining was a new major industry. Since the latter part of the 19th century, gold had been the major sustenance of the world’s expanding market. By 1890, London was known as the financial centre of the world’s trade, and a stable supply of the world’s stock of gold was critical for maintaining this high-class position. Approximately 100 000 migrant black workers from Southern Africa were labouring in the many gold mines of the land, along with 12 000 whites (workers and/or supervisors).

Competitiveness between the British settlers and Boers in these regions had been ongoing for near 50 years as Britain sought to unite its control of South Africa and United Kingdom. At the arrival of warfare, there were about 500 000 people originally from Britain in the Cape Colony and KwaZulu-Natal (African coastal province) and a smaller amount than 250 000 people originally from Dutch in the Transvaal, which was self-governing and self-regulating, and in the Orange Free State, who had limited independence. The Cape Colony was important because it offered an advantage/strategic point to oversee the important sea route to India (imports/exports of goods) and also had approximately 500 000 coloured people. There similarly was an Asian community of 100 000, most of them lived in KwaZulu-Natal. Consequently, this war was unfortunately fought in a terrain where white people made up estimate of one-fifth of the population in Africa at the time. In 1899, there were roughly 1 million white men and settlers in South Africa, compared to 4 million black African people. Throughout the last 3 decades of the 19th century, Britain had subdued and merged the remaining independent African Chiefdoms (hierarchical political organisation in African Tribes based on senior members of select families and become a leader based on kinship) states in Southern Africa.

KwaZulu-Natal soon became a British colony and exported out many of its Boers into the two Boer republics in the north (commonly referred to as the Boer States, Trek-Boers and Voortrekkers). Therefore, they set the design of 2 English-speaking states in the south and 2 Afrikaans-speaking states in the north. By time of the war, some Dutch families had been in South Africa for seven generations and made the Afrikaans language a more common speech as well as English, etc.

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Major Conflict between England and the 2 Boer Republics of Transvaal: Historical Essay on Boer War. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 23, 2024, from
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