Boer Gore

Cartoons can allow us to see ourselves as others see us, often uncomfortably. Mark Bryant looks at cartoons produced across Europe about Britain’s involvement in an unpopular war in South Africa at the turn of the twentieth century.

In the nineteenth century Britain was involved in two wars with the Dutch settlers of southern Africa. Known as Boers (farmers) they had achieved some degree of autonomy after the First Boer War (1880-81) but their struggle for independence became even more intense after the discovery of gold in the Transvaal in 1886. This led to a massive influx of (mainly British) immigrants known as Uitlanders (‘outsiders’) to whom the Boers denied many civil rights. After appealing to Britain for support 10,000 troops were sent to the neighbouring British colony of Natal to help the Uitlanders. As a result the allied Boer leaders – President Kruger of the Transvaal and President Steyn of the Orange Free State – declared war in October 1899, attacked Natal and laid siege to the key British garrisons at Mafeking, Ladysmith and Kimberley.

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