Seen as I’d lived in the country for 15 years, and knew a lot more about the Zulu War than I did about the Boer War, I thought that it was about time I read about it.
This is where the problems come in. Yes, it looks to be meticulously researched, but some of the geography, especially in my “home” province of Natal, was plain wrong. Also some of pronunciations. But I can forgive them that. There was a lot say about the battles, which was good.
Two of the most controversial incidents of the war are of course discussed: the scorching of the Boer farms and also the concentration camps that were set up by the British. That was part of the British strategy, to get the Boers into an ever decreasing area to fight so eventually they would surrender unconditionally. The scorched-earth policy was dealt with quite well.
I was expecting the authors to be vitriolic towards the British regarding the concentration camps, given their role in World War II. And I expected a whole chapter or two about this subject. Nope, how wrong I was. It was just described, to me, as just another tool of war, that any of the participants of any war could use. That’s where I have a big problem with the book.
There is more said in the book about the fact that the non-whites were not given the vote, and were naturally treated badly by the Afrikaaners. But surely the point is this: based on what happened before and afterwards, it was always going to be an issue. But treating the concentration camps as just another tool of war, which could be seen later on in 20th Century history as genocide, was treating like it was some sort of everyday occurance when two countries go to war.
I know that the Afrikanners, especially after 1948, got and still get a bad press, and for good reason. I just feel that the authors portrayed the use of concentration camps as a way of saying, “Well, there’s 3000 less Afrikaaners.”
Old prejudices die hard, don’t they.