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Boer wars

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(1880–81; 1899–1902)

Wars fought between Britain and Transvaal and between Britain and Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The first arose from the British annexation of the Transvaal in 1877 and the incompetent administration that followed. In 1880 it was thought that the Gladstone government would grant independence, or at least self-government; when hopes were dashed, Kruger, Joubert, and Pretorius took power as a triumvirate. British disasters at the battles of Laing's Nek, Ingogo, and Majuba Hill forced peace upon Gladstone, who granted self-government. The second Boer War (1899–1902) was caused by multiple grievances. The Boers, under the leadership of Kruger, resented the imperialist policies of Joseph Chamberlain, which they feared would deprive the Transvaal of its independence. The refusal of political rights to uitlanders aggravated the situation, as did the aggressive attitude of Lord Milner, British High Commissioner. For Britain, control of the Rand goldfield was all-important. In 1896 the Transvaal and the Orange Free State formed a military alliance. The Boers, equipped by Germany, never mustered more than 88,000 men, but defeated Britain in numerous initial engagements, for example, Spion Kop. British garrisons were besieged in Ladysmith, Kimberley, and Mafeking. In 1900 the British, under Kitchener and Roberts, landed with reinforcements. The Boers were gradually defeated, despite the brilliant defence of the commandos. Kitchener adopted a scorched-earth policy, interning the civil population in concentration camps, and systematically destroying farms. Peace was offered in 1901, but terms that included the loss of Boer independence were not agreed until the Peace of Vereeniging in 1902.

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