The Boer War & British Society

Peter Donaldson examines how the British people reacted to the various stages of the South African war of 1899-1902.

In Rudyard Kipling’s famous phrase, the Boer War taught the British ‘no end of a lesson’. A war which was expected to be brief and glorious ended up taking a British and Imperial army of approximately 500,000 men over two and a half years to defeat Boer forces that never numbered more than 45,000. With in excess of £200 million expended on the war and a British death toll of 22,000, the conflict was, both in human and financial terms, by far the costliest that Britain had undertaken between 1815 and 1914. It is hardly surprising then that the war dominated public discourse in Britain and excited a wide range of emotions.

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