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TOPIC 4: METHODS OF BARBARISM
Possible Essay Questions
Were the concentration camps a rational way of furthering British interests in South Africa?
How significant were the atrocities committed by British and Boer forces in the South African War?
The Violence of Empire Do we see the South African War as part of a new departure in 20th century warfare or does it hark back to episodes like the suppression of the Indian Mutiny in the 1850s?
Gregory Fremont-Barnes The Boer War straddled two centuries not only in its chronology, but also in the very manner in which it was fought.
- At first the fighting bore the hallmarks of 19th century warfare.
- J. F. C. Fuller ? SAW - 'The Last of the Gentlemen's Wars' o Both sides exercised a certain degree of chivalrous conduct, not least to the wounded o The fact that deaths from disease still exceeded those suffered in action also placed the war in a clear 19th century context
- Yet the Boer War also witnessed the introduction of elements of warfare that we would associate more with the 20th century o Specifically, new forms of technology were employed, such as the field telephone, searchlights and barbed wire
- The war highlighted the efficiency of guerilla warfare
- This in turn led to a number of ruthless responses, including the policy of 'scorched earth', whereby British patrols roamed the countryside, setting fire and laying waste to vast stretches of the field
- When the war ended, there were more civilian than military dead, an indication of the way in which the conflict shifted over time from conventional to guerilla fighting Intentionality and guilt
-Genocide involves intention -Boer concentration camps?
Relates to the issue of guilt - how far is it the role of the historian to apportion guilt to individuals, institutions and countries?
The treatment of civilians in the SAW and the deaths of tens of thousands of people in the camps fuelled humanitarian campaigns Emily Hobhouse o Publication of photographs showing the plight of children particularly in concentration amps Finally the leader of the Liberal party stands up and roundly denounced what the British are doing in Southern Africa "When is a war not a war? When it is conducted by the methods of barbarism in South Africa." Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, 14 June 1901 Arguing that the British were the barbarians. Reversion to primitive methods of warfare - violation of civilized standards
Scorched Earth Policy
- Introduced by Lord Roberts in Orange Free State from as early as March 1900 as a way of trying to deny the Boer guerillas the support of the populations o Burning of farms o Confiscation of property o Can't be defeated in the field and so instead destroy their ammunition and intelligence
- Up to 30,000 farms and 40 towns wholly or partially destroyed o Becomes more systematic under Kitchener
- Confiscation of livestock from blacks as well as whites o If aim is to deny Boer guerillas supply of food then it is important to remove all of the food o Impacts heavily on the African population Kitchener
- Ramps up policy of scorched earth warfare
- Deploys unprecedented number of troops to put into affect
- 7 August 1901 - Banishment proclamation o States that any Boer captured will be permanently banned o British government does not support him on this
- Most effective part of Kitchener's military policies is the construction of a vast network of block houses o Small pre-fabricated fortifications which are set up across the belt and can be defended by a relatively small force of men
o Exist to give Kitchener control of the belt but also to protect railways, bridges and other strategic points o Once system completed ? covers a grid totaling 6000KM
? Trying to stop Boer guerillas from moving freely aroundStrategic impact?
o Capture just over 1000 Boers (due to the 'New Model Drives') but also large amounts of supplies and livestock o This denies the Boers in the field of key remaining sources of food and it forces the Boers who are left to raid African towns and farms to try and get food o It is one of these Boer raiding parties who attack the Zulu settlement and take food which then gets wiped out in a subsequent Zulu attack
? This is what drives them to attack the Zulu population
Kitchener's methods of warfare are NOT methods of barbarism
- Highly scientific and modern
- Kitchener is an engineer as much as a soldier
- Kitchener a master of logistics, of military supply, of organisation
- Effectively deploying a big military force is a modern campaign
- Kitchener has also already got a reputation as a scientific soldier due to the Sudan Campaign and that is why he is bought to South Africa 'High Modernism' - James C. Scott - Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition have Failed (New Haven and London, 1998)
- Sociologist James Scott
- Talks about high modernism - a phenomenon of the 20th century and 20th century governments
- If you have a problem - you should bring in experts and scientific knowledge to solve this
- Create an ideal society by employing experts e.g. technocrats who will use their expertise to solve your problems and create an ideal situation
- Kitchener employed to lead the SAW as an example of this broader 20th century pattern Primary Sources
Extracts from War Office Records - Letters between Lord Kitchener and St. John Broderick - 1900-1902 How does Kitchener justify the concentration camps in the extracts?
- Meant to protect those who surrender from their former colleagues
- Refugee camps - not a camp where you are imprisoning people but a camp where you are putting up refugees
- Kitchener proposes moving those within the refugee camps o Says that they can 'settle on some island or country where we can safely establish the Boers, Fiji for instance, or get some foreign provider to take them such as France to populate Madagascar.'
- Rising sense of frustration in Kitchener's writing o By the time it gets to June 1901 there is a sense of desperation and a drive to more aggressive measures o Frustration with the failure of the army to deal with the Boers o Advocating more aggressive and extreme solutions Who bears the blame for what happened in the concentration camps?
Conflicting explanations for the camps
- Made necessary for the humanitarian plight
- The camps are refugee camps - set up for humanitarian reasons
2. Inadequacy of the military
- Iain Smith - explains the camps due the inadequacy of imperial forces
- Today we often assume that imperial power is total
- Smith argues that it is unhelpful to think like this o British Empire and other Empires have great difficulty in protecting their realm of power
- Smith views the camps as a result of the weakness of British power
3. Racism and Race
- Kitchener - 'These boers are uncivilized Africander savages with only a thing white veneer.'
- 'The people who have lived all their lives with them have only seen the veneer, hence they have no idea what brining up in this wild country has produced, savages.'
4. Cultures of military professionalism
-The British army is becoming more professional More modern, more organised and less subject to civilian control They should be empowered to apply these techniques Paying less and less attention to the human cost of warfare Take whatever action necessary to win regardless of the human cost o Characteristic of 20th century warfare o Perhaps idealizing 19th century warfare too much?
How this relates to guilt and blame is interesting o Is Kitchener to blame for the deaths in the concentration camps?
Jan Smuts letter to W. T. Stead Stead
- Radical newspaper editor
- Ally of Rhodes but then radically turned against Chamberlain and is a virulent critic of the South African War
- One man campaign - leads a lot of pro-Boer media in Britain Smuts
- One of the generals leading one of the most successful guerilla campaigns on the margin of the cape
- He is Cape Dutch - not himself a Boer
- Initially supported Rhodes
- Goes to Cambridge and trains as a lawyer in London
- Comes back to South Africa and then after the Jameson Rad he becomes radicalized, moves to Pretoria, and becomes a senior member of Kruger's government
- Wrote a book called 'A Century of Wrong' - presenting the British as persecuting the Dutch, the Boers and the Cape Dutch
- Writing to Stead in Jan 1902, as the war is entering its final stages
- Stead tends to side with Smuts during the war
- What accusations does Smuts level against the British for their actions in the past?
o Disgust at British using Black troops - says would create long lasting bitterness between the Boers and the Afrikaners o British undermining white supremacy in South Africa - after the war the Africans are going to continuously challenge the Boers
- Smuts argues that there is a conscious targeting of civilian population o The British military is constantly targeting civilians because they think that is going to end the war
Smuts claims that this is a conventional war and so the rights of the civilians and the commandos in the field should be protected How does Smuts explain why the Boers are continuing to fight?
o 'The English might have known from South African history that the Boers are a race of indomitable spirit and unbaffled persistence. They might have known but they chose not know.' o Boers are very religious - religion almost justifies their belief to carry on fighting
? 'It served to make clear to a strongly religious people like them that God could not be on the side of an Empire which could inflict such irreparable wrongs and cruel injuries on its prostrate enemy.' o The effect of the concentration camps and scorched earth policy was to 'inspire new courage into their hearts....' o Idealism - Boer commandos are fighting a good fight. What they are doing is morally and religious justified
- Deaths that occur in the camps are a result of a mixture of overcrowding etc. and the impact of epidemic disease
- Mortality in camps peaks at over 3000 in the month of October 1901 and drops very sharply afterwards once the short epidemics are over
- 16,000 British soldiers die of disease during the war Emily Hobhouse - staunchly condemns the concentration camps
- Major role in publicizing what is happening in the camps
- Goes to SA and visits the camps for 5 months
- Pro-Boers and opposes the war
- Raises funds in Britain to relieve the plight of Boer women and children
- Goes out to camps to disperse this relief money
- Whilst there, she compiles reports on what is happening in the camps
- Brother a journalist for the Manchester Guardian (extreme radical liberal paper in Britain at the time - staunch opponent of the war)
- British government respond by establishing a formal enquiry The Fawcett Commission - group of women
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