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The First Anglo-Boer War (1880–1881), was a fight to keep sovereignty by the South African Republic against British invasion.

  1. The war was between the South African Republic (ZAR) and the British.
  2. When the British annexed Transvaal in 1877 the Boers were angered.
  3. In 1877, the Pedi attacked the Boers of Transvaal, and Boers claimed the British had not adequately assisted them.
  4. The British wished to bring Transvaal by force into a union, which furthered chances of war.

The South African Republic was victorious.

Second Anglo-Boer War[edit]

The Second War (1899–1902), by contrast, was a lengthy war—involving large numbers of troops from the Empire, which ended with the conversion of the Boer republics into British colonies (with a promise of limited self-governance). These colonies later formed part of the Union of South Africa. The British fought directly against the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, defeating their forces first in open warfare and then in a long and bitter guerrilla campaign. British losses were high due to both disease and combat. The policies of "scorched earth" and civilian internment in concentration camps were the cause of suffering in the Boer civilian populations in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. When news of these strategies reached Britain, there was an erosion of support for the war. Ships like RMS Umbria served Britain during the Second War. Her sister ship, Etruria,didn't go into the war.

Controversy and significance[edit]

During the later stages of the Second Boer War, the British pursued the policy of rounding up and isolating the Boer civilian population in concentration camps, one of the earliest uses of this method by modern powers. Women and children were sent to these camps. A report after the war concluded that 27,927 Boer (of whom 22,074 were children under 16) and 14,154 black Africans had died of starvation, disease and exposure in the camps.[1]

A British journalist, WT Stead, wrote:

"Every one of these children who died as a result of the halving of their rations, thereby exerting pressure onto their family still on the battle-field, was purposefully murdered. The system of half rations stands exposed, stark and unashamedly as a cold-blooded deed of state policy employed with the purpose of ensuring the surrender of men whom we were not able to defeat on the field."[2]

The German Empire saw this as a clear sign of British weakness as it was struggling to maintain a portion of its empire in Africa, and sent the Kruger Telegram, congratulating the leader of the Boers on their war effort.[3]

This led to a change in approach to foreign policy from Britain, which now set about looking for more allies. To this end, the 1902 treaty with the Empire of Japan in particular was a sign that the British Empire feared attack on its Far Eastern empire and saw this alliance as an opportunity to strengthen its stance in the Far East. This war led to a change from splendid isolation policy to a policy that involved looking for allies and improving world relations.[citation needed] Later treaties with France ("Entente cordiale") and the Russian Empire, caused partially by the controversy surrounding the Boer War, were major factors in dictating how the battle lines were drawn during World War I.[citation needed]

The Boer War also had other significance. The Army Medical Corps discovered that 40–60% of men presenting for service were physically unfit to fight. This was the first time in which the government was forced to take notice of how unhealthy the British population was. This strengthened the call for the liberal reforms of the first decade of the twentieth century.[4]

The United States Army uses several case studies from the Boer War to teach ethics in combat.

The Boer War greatly affected the English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy, and he was moved to compose the poem "Drummer Hodge".[5]