Boer War

HideShow resource information

Background to the 2nd Boer War

  • Boer's were dutch settlers in South Africa. They lived in the 2 republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal.
  • They had left the British Cape Colony in 1836 after the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.
  • The foreign policy of the republics was conducted by Westminister, but after the defeat of the Zulus in 1979, the Boers became more independent. 
  • The first Boer War 1880- 81.
  • The British were defeated and the discovery of gold in the later 1880's made the repulics very valuable.
  • 1895, the Jamieson Raid attempted to create a Pro-British uprising, but failed. 
  • It led to the famous Kruger TElegram offering support from Kaiser Wilhelm II
  • War Broke out in 1899 after more than a dozen years of unrest between the Boers + Utilanders (foreign miners who moved into the republics in search of gold).
1 of 11

The War

  • The Boer War began in 1899 with expectations of an early and easy victory. An army of 450,000 was recruited to deal with only 50,000 Boer forces.
  • British recieve series of heavy defeats in 1st year. Commander Roberts unable to deal with Boer tactics.
  • Boers flexible + fast over vast distances.
  • Only significant successes in 2st year = relief of Ladysmith + Mafeking.
  • Several thousands of men lost in attempts to relieve the sieges + Boers win series of victories.
  • However this changes in 1900- string of British victories.
  • Coincided with 1900 general election (Khaki election) = Conservative victory as it appeared that the war was won.
  • But guerrilla tactics used by Boers meant war dragged on for more than a year.
  • Kitchener (Commander Nov 1900) uses blockhouses to strangle the Boers + moving tens of thousands into concentration camps. It proved unpopular. 
  • Also used scorched-earth policy to restrict Boer movement.
  • Eventually Boers forced to surrender May 1902.
2 of 11

Problems raised by war

  • Heavy British casualties: 6% of 450,000 recruits. It showed the inadeqacy of the army + unhealthy state of recruits: 37% failed the medical.
  • The financial cost of the war was greater than expected.
  • National Morale suffered, only just managed to defeat army of farmers = debate over National Efficiency. 
  • Conduct of war condemned in 1904 by Committee of Imperial Defence.
  • British tactics criticised abroad + contributed to changes in foreign policy: the Anglo-Japansese Alliance of 1902 + the Entente Cordiale 1904.
3 of 11

Haldane's Army Reforms

  • Majority of soldiers volunteers, enlist for duration.
  • Experience of war convinced government change was necessary. 
  • War was now increasingly technological + training was essential. 
  • Regular Army organised into continental Expeditionary Force. All other units united into home-defence Territorial Forcebased on County Associations. 
  • Regular Army would be highly trained Expeditionary Force capable of reacting quickly in emergencies. 
  • New territorial Force of 14 infantry divisions, 14 cavalry brigades +large number of support units created.
  • General Haid, Director of War Studies at the War Office, produced entirely new Training Manual to cover all areas of organisation. 
  • August 1914 Haldane;s BEF sent to Belgium to halt advancing Germans at Mons.
4 of 11

Impact of press reporting on Britain

  • Initial support- fought on mainland Europe, European entanglements like Crimea.
  • Imperial war = 'defending' British interests in key area of the Empire.
  • Support for Empire at height + appeals for volunteers met rapid response.
  • Churchill's reports= support. conservative candidate 1899 + defeated in by-election at Oldham.
  • Appointed war correspondant for the 'Morning Chronicle' and sailed with the British forces.
  • Accompanied troops to front line + sent reports back to Britain. Strong supporter of Empire.
  • More impact when taken prisioner after an ambush troops train. Prisioner of war- but escapes.
  • Churchill's experiences made excellent reading + encouraged support for war.
  • Press report defences of Ladysmith + Mafeking = public support when they were relieved.
  • 'Mafeking' became popular term for massive rejoicing.
  • 1900 war drags + Criticisms in 1901- Hobhouse- concentration camps in Orange Free State.
  • Hobhouse publishes findings June 1901 + met leading politicians.
  •  Lloyd George takes up issue in Parliament + attacks politicians. 
  • Joseph Chamberlain= colonial secretary, defends camps but in November 1901 forces Alfred Milner, High Commissioner in South Africa to take action.
  • Gov set up Fawcett Commission (led by Millicent Fawcett- suffragist) to investigate from August - December 1901. All members women.
  • More than 27,000 Boers died in concentration camps.
5 of 11

Support for/ questioning imperial war

  • Differences between Conservative approach: Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain + Liberal David Lloyd George.
  • Chamberlain saw Empire as source of raw materials- market for domestic goods.
  • Supported Rhodes attemps to take control of Central Africa + Milner's confrontational policies.
  • 1903 proposes import duties to stop competition from cheaper foreign goods. empire given preferental treatment.
  • Chamberlain resigns September 1903 to campaign for Imperial Preference. Thus splits the Conservatives = Liberals have major advantage.
  • Lloyd George represented pro-Boer wing of party- oppose extention of Empire.
  • Attack's chamberlain for creation of concentration camps (64) + use of 'coolie labour' (Chinese labourers brought to South Africa. 
  • But disagreements within Liberal Party over imperialism.
6 of 11

Boer War + liberal imperialism

  • limps= faction in the British liberal party- active from 1890- outbreak of WW1
  •  right of party against pro-boer, anti war campaigners (Lloyd George, Harcourt.)
  • Pro-Boers = 60-70 Liberal MP's, liberal imperialists = 60 in strength by Lord Rosebery..
  • John Morley describes Liberal Imperialism as 'Chamberlain wine with Rosebery label' (Chamberlain now in conservative gov)
  • Limps see themselves as new order of liberal party, leave Gladstonian idea that war is immoral.
  • see imperialism as unifying cry. Also an economic + social necessity.
  • the factions battle1901 in private + press: Pro-boer Daily News + Limps Daily Chronicle.
  • Initial support for pro-boers who describe the concentration camps.
  • limps hit back but weaknesses outweigh strengths.
  • end of war 1902 prevents split of liberals.
  • Liberal Imperialism to be 'submerged in a tide of Gladstonian revivalism' (Pugh) + 3 of its key players joined the upper ranks of newly elected liberal government 1906.
  • Rosebery left to regret tactical errors that made limps irrelevant after 1902.
  •  liberals adopt policy of moderate devolution in India- the Morley Minto reforms allow indian role in gov for 1st time.
7 of 11

National Efficiency

  • 37% recruits refused entry to army due to physical unfitness.
  • 90% in some cities.
  • issue so serious kept secret until after the war- debate over national efficiency. 
  • fierce debate at end of century- to continue as military power need to ensure health of population
  • German social benefits include unemployment + sick pay
  • The Committee on hysical Deterioration reported in 1905 = leads to changes.
  • 1906: Education (Provision of School meals) Act local authorities provide school meals to poor
  • No funds to pay for this. Still the service provided 14million meals for 158,000 children by 1914.
  • 1907: Education (Medical Inspection) Act - to counteract diseaases such as tuberculosis- results in establishment of Board of Education.
  • 1908- children's + young persons Act - borstols + juvenile courts introduced- children bannd from buying alcohol + tobacco - parents legally responsible for children.
  • Medical inspections results in discovery that working class children 8cm shorter than middle class children.
8 of 11

Significance of New Liberalism

  • Work of Booth in London + Rowntree in York = 1/3 of Urban dwellers living in absoloute poverty.
  • publish report in 1901-2- shows main cause of poverty was low pay not idleness.
  • Rowntree also shows poverty is cyclical- extreme hardship when family was growing, unemployment, sickness + old age = main targets for Liberals 1908.
  • Poor Law 1834. In 1900 about 140,000 people recieving oor relief in workhouses + another 840,000 recieving outdoor relief. 
  • After 1906 social reform- means of taxation
  • Publication of Poor Law in Royal Commission 1909= high profile 
  • Lloyd George = catalyst.
9 of 11

Social Reforms 1908-14

  • 1908old age pensions: 25p a week to singles over 70, 37.5 to married, income must be below £31 + 8 1/2 hr working day for miners
  • 1909 -  Trade Boards: representatives of employers to assist sweated industries.
  • 1910 - Labour Exchange: helps unemployed get job, 410 set up but complaints about queues. 
  • 1911 - Shop Act: grants 1/2 a day holiday per week.
  • National Insurance Act (pt 1):50p a week for 26 weeks if off work due to illness + free medical treatments- for all workers earning up to £160 a year.
  • 1912 National Insurance (pt 2) for industries with high risk of unemployment e.g ship building, covers about 2.5 mill, unemployed allowed 35p per week for 15 weeks.
  • Miners Minimum Wage Act / Schools clinics set up = treatments after medical inspections.
  • 1913 - Trade Union Act: allowed unions to make political contribution from a members subscription.
  • This had been only way Labour MP's could get a salary before Parliament Act of 1911.
10 of 11

Liberal Reforms helped poor

  • 1st time government accept responsibility for peoples well-being. By 1913 Liberal gov had shown it was prepared to interfere.
  • Role of state became greater: driving force of Churchill and Lloyd George moves Liberalism forward.
  • Many now regard social reforms as beginnings of welfare state.
  • Health legislation covered 13 million people by 1914.
  • By 1914 almost 1 mill people claim od age pension + this cost about £12 mill.
  • O.A.P Act virtually ended outdoor relief of those over 70.


  • Old Age Pensions paid at 70- av. life expectancy 47.
  • Only lowest paid male workers covered by National Insurance
  • Health Insurance not on national basis- Ministry of Health not established until 1919.
  • Medical treatment of act did not include dentists + opticians + not family + hospital treatment only for TB (most dangerous disease at time).
  • Poor Law (until 1929) + workhouses not abolished- when benefits ended after 26 weeks hadto go to workhouse.
11 of 11


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Modern Britain - 19th century onwards resources »