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South African War (Boer War) Collection (C312)

1900-1901. - 4 cm of textual records.

Administrative History - Biographical Sketch:

In 1885 Britain annexed Bechuanaland (now Botswana), thwarting President Kruger's plan to expand Afrikaner territory to the west. Vast gold deposits were discovered in the southern Transvaal in 1886. The mining industry was financed by the British, and thousands of English miners, called Uitlanders (foreigners) by the Afrikaners, entered the Transvaal.

Kruger refused to grant civil equality to Uitlanders and taxed them and foreign companies heavily. After negotiations failed, British financier Cecil Rhodes, prime minister of the Cape Colony, encouraged the Uitlanders to revolt in 1895. They were supported by a small invading force under the command of Leander Starr Jameson. The raid was a failure and although Rhodes was absolved of any involvement, he was forced to resign as prime minister.

Relations between the Cape Colony and the two Afrikaner republics worsened after British statesman Alfred Milner became governor of the Cape Colony in 1897. In October 1899 Kruger declared war. The Boer War, which lasted for two and a half years, pitted the might of the British Empire against the Afrikaners. After some initial success, the British forces occupied all major urban centres by mid-1900. British forces, which have been estimated at 500,000, far outnumbered a force of about 90,000 in the Afrikaner armies.

The Afrikaners, however, continued to wage a costly guerrilla war until 1902. Toward the end of the war the British used a "scorched-earth policy" in which Afrikaner farms were destroyed and thousands of women and children were held in concentration camps. More than 20,000 Afrikaners were said to have died in the camps. In addition, more than 14,000 blacks from the region died in concentration camps during the war. Under the terms of the Treaty of Vereeniging, signed on May 31, 1902, the Transvaal territories and the Orange River Colony (as the Orange Free State became known in 1900) became British crown colonies. In 1906 and 1907 they were given constitutions as self-governing colonies.

Scope and Content:

The South African War (Boer War) collection pertains to the 1899-1902 war between Britain and the two Afrikaner republics of South Africa and the Orange Free State.

The collection consists of memorabilia, a special siege slip of The Mafeking Mail, a page of the Northern Post, a letter from George Simpson to his brother Charles, a note from Intelligence to Stanteton's Headquarters and a book of poems and songs on the South African War.