Book Review: Britain And Boer Independence

Britain And Boer Independence, by Edouard Naville

This book is certainly the effort of a sincere man, and the fact that it was published by the British suggests that it was written with the approval of the British imperial authorities in 1900 as a way of urging the surrender of the Boer, which was not to happen for nearly two years after this work was published.  Although the author’s own personal stake in South Africa is not particularly clear, it does not take long upon reading this book that it is obvious that the book presents the point of view of the British, with a humanitarian appeal to the Boers to bow down to the superior military power and economic strength of the British empire and give up the seemingly foolish and quixotic quest for dominance over South Africa.  Obviously, with the benefit of hindsight, it is easier to view this book as being self-serving for the British imperial interests and the author’s anti-Boer bias is quickly tiresome and tedious.  If this book is worthwhile, it is as a historical artifact of the prudential view for laying down one’s arms and accepting the rule of empires, something that not everyone is going to find to be appealing but which is at least worth recognizing as being a thread of discourse about imperialism.

This particular short book, called a brochure by one of the people who helped publish it, is introduced with a hilarious note lacking in self-awareness that calls it “the unbiassed opinion of the enlightened portion of our European neighbors.”  After that comes about 60 pages or so of unsolicited advice from the author, who apparently was a bit of an agent for British imperialism despite his neutral Swiss residence, that is divided into five chapters.  The first chapter discusses the problem of the franchise and independence for the Boer republics, whose dislike of giving franchise to the Uitlanders (foreigners), much less to coloureds or blacks within their borders was extreme.  After that the author discusses Dr. Leyd’s mission, critiques the foreign policy of the Transvaal, and complains about the armaments and whines about how the Boers justified their arming for war against the British by the failed Jamison raid that had taken place only a few years before.  After that the author discusses the advice that he wants to give to the Boers and it is precisely as cowardly as one would expect from a pro-imperialist booster, namely surrender, which is what eventually had, albeit at greater cost to both the British and the Boers.

There are at least a few aspects of this short book that are highly entertaining.  The author appears to be tired of the way that the Boers and their apologists threw the Jamison raid into the faces of pro-British imperialists as being a sign of British perfidity.  Likewise, the author appears wholeheartedly to avoid talking about the cruelty of the British concentration camps which sought to starve the Boer into submission and which provided a shameful precedent for Hitler’s Germany to follow later on to such memorable and lamentable effect.  It should be noted that imperial wars of domination and conquest such as the Boer War was do not present anyone in their best look, and the sight of the British and Boers killing each other for a temporary domination of the area of South Africa, which would end up being a pyrrhic victory for the British who would find themselves subjected to the domination of the understandably vengeful Boer population once they were able to enter into the political rule of the Dominion of South Africa in 1910.  The author is no prophet, and scarcely able to overcome his biases to recognize such justice as existed in the Boer position.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, History, Military History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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