Boer War

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Boer War

South Africa's Cape of Good Hope was colonized in the 17th century by Dutch Boers (farmers). The Boers used African slaves on their farms. Britain occupied the Cape during the Napoleonic wars and took complete control after the Congress of Vienna. Slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833. Many of the Boers then decided that they could no longer live under British rule. They began moving northward and soon established two independent republics--the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.

There was peace between British and Boers until the Boer republics were found to be rich in diamonds and gold. Fortune hunters, mostly British, poured in to stake claims. The Dutch farmers called these people uitlanders (outlanders) and bitterly resented their intrusion.

In 1895 the outlanders in the Transvaal planned a revolt against the Boer government. Leander Jameson, with a small British force, invaded the Transvaal to aid the uprising. The Jameson raid was a total failure. The angered Boers, led by their president, Paul Kruger, began to arm themselves.

Natal and the Cape, two of Britain's colonies, were invaded in 1899 by the Boers. They besieged a British force at Ladysmith. Other troops were pinned down at Kimberley and Mafeking. Then reinforcements came to the British from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In March 1900 Frederick Sleigh Roberts, the British commander, captured Bloemfontein, capital of the Orange Free State. In June British forces reached Pretoria, capital of the Transvaal. The greatly outnumbered Boers continued to fight under Louis Botha, Christiaan de Wet, and Jan Smuts.

Herbert Kitchener, the new British commander in chief, then decided and eventually proceeded to bring the war to an end. He advanced slowly, burning farms and establishing concentration camps for Boer civilians. The camps had a high death rate, due largely to lack of medical services.

The Treaty of Pretoria (31 May, 1902) ended the war. The Transvaal and the Orange Free State became British colonies. Both Dutch and English were made official languages. Britain then began to restore the devastated farms of the Boers. The Union of South Africa was established as a self-governing dominion in 1910. The Transvaal and the Orange Free State became provinces of the Union. The first prime minister was the Boer general Louis Botha.

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