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The Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902)

From October 11, 1899 until May 31, 1902, the Second Boer War (also known as the South African War and the Anglo-Boer War) was fought in South Africa between the British and the Boers (Dutch settlers in southern Africa). The Boers had founded two independent South African republics (the Orange Free State and the South African Republic) and had a long history of distrust and dislike for the British that surrounded them.

After gold was discovered in the South African Republic in 1886, the British wanted the area under their control.

In 1899, the conflict between the British and the Boers burgeoned into a full-fledged war that was fought in three stages: a Boer offensive against British command posts and railway lines, a British counteroffensive that brought the two republics under British control, and a Boer guerrilla resistance movement that prompted a widespread scorched-earth campaign by the British and the internment and deaths of thousands of Boer civilians in British concentration camps.

The first phase of the war gave the Boers the upper hand over British forces, but the latter two phases eventually brought victory to the British and placed the previously independent Boer territories firmly under British dominion -- leading, eventually, to the complete unification of South Africa as a British colony in 1910.

Who Were the Boers?

In 1652, the Dutch East India Company established the first staging post at the Cape of Good Hope (the southernmost tip of Africa); this was a place where ships could rest and resupply during the long voyage to the exotic spice markets along India’s western coast.

This staging post attracted settlers from Europe for whom life on the continent had become unbearable due to economic difficulties and religious oppression.

At the turn of the 18th century, the Cape had become home to settlers from Germany and France; however, it was the Dutch who made up the majority of the settler population. They came to be known as “Boers”’—the Dutch word for farmers.

As time passed, a number of

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