World History 1899

About the history of the world in 1899, the Boer War between the British and the Dutch South Africans begins.

TWO CENTURIES OF WORLD HISTORY: 1778-1978

1899

Oct. 11 The Boer War broke out in South Africa between Great Britain and Dutch settlers (Boers) in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Trouble had been brewing for several years, ever since a gold strike in the Transvaal had drawn some 50,000 Europeans, mostly British, into the once peaceful farmland. Transvaal Pres. Oom Paul Kruger welcomed the riches brought by the mines, but sought to preserve Boer dominance in the area by taxing the Uitlanders heavily while denying them any participation in local government. When war finally came, the Boers stood ready with 50,000 mounted infantry to take on the might of the British Empire. High morale, good supply lines, superior mobility, and knowledge of the terrain all worked to the Boers' advantage, and they thus scored some initial victories. But by June, 1900, British reinforcements under Gen. Lord Kitchener had routed the last of the Boer armies. That should have been the end of it. But then Her Majesty's forces came up against something beyond its military experience--in fact no European power had encountered it before--a spontaneous native resistance movement. For the next two years, small bands of Boer guerrillas, dressed in mufti, harassed Kitchener's men one day, only to melt into the households of sympathetic farmers the next. To quell the rebellion once and for all, Kitchener herded 120,000 Boers into concentration camps and put to torch everything of military value. No fewer than 20,000 inmates died in these camps, mostly from disease. The tactic worked, and with the Treaty of Vereeniging (May 31, 1902), the Transvaal and the Orange Free State were annexed to British South Africa, though they were promised, and later given, independence. The war cost Britain 22,000 dead, pond 222 million, and when horror stories of the concentration camps reached Europe, prestige. The real losers, however, were the black Africans, who were forced to watch white men squabble over their land, assured only that, whoever won, life for black Africans would remain unchanged.

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