Causes of the Boer War

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The Causes of the Boer War, 1877-1899

The Anglo Boer war is a topic that has been of particular interest to historians, both locally and internationally. As a war that the British had intended to be swift and concise it dragged on giving the British “no end of a lesson” (Pakenham, 1993:9) and would prove to be their most costly colonial enterprise in the history of British imperialism whose costs were only to be eclipsed by the great war of 1914. Of no less importance or significance is the Boer War’s role in shaping and creating the South Africa of the future, moving in to the 20th and 21st centuries. The space it occupied in world events at the time as well as the factors involved within South Africa at the time make for fascinating research, the roots of which delve deep in to the pits of the Gold mines of the Witwatersrand and which branches span oceans, touching the highest aspirations of colonial officials of the period.

How was the war started and where do its origins lie? These are some of the questions I will attempt to answer in this essay. The nature of the political and economic as well as social landscape of South Africa at the time is such that one cannot answer these questions without first delving in to the different factors involved and understanding the context South Africa, and more specifically the Transvaal found herself in at the time.

Needless to say, due to the interest in the topic as well as the different factors at play speculation by historians is wide and varying and in attempting to answer these questions I will cover a number of theories put forward by prominent historians as to the origins of the war that was to affect the whole of South Africa.

A brief Historical context: South Africa Before 1881
As stated by Thomas Pakenham in The Boer War “the crisis in the Transvaal at the end of the nineteenth century was the culmination of two and a half centuries of Afrikaner...
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