Jameson's Raid - The Prelude to the Boer War
Denis Judd reviews an infamous episode in 1895 in the Transvaal.
- Jameson's Raid: The Prelude to the Boer War
Elizabeth Longford. 344 pp. (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1960)
The Jameson Raid is one of the great mysteries of British imperial history. Launched in the early hours of the penultimate day of 1895, it has provided historians with juicy morsels to toy with ever since. Naturally, it caused enormous interest and controversy at the time, and, arguably was one of the main causes of the Boer War of 1899-1902. The Raid, led by Cecil Rhodes' lieutenant and confidant, Dr Jameson, was a crude attempt to settle the Transvaal problem of the 1890's by overthrowing Kruger's republic, with the help of the English-speaking Uitlanders of Johannesburg and the Rand, and establishing a pro-British government of some sort in its place. The plan was a disastrous flop: Jameson’s troopers of Rhodes' British South Africa Police Force were easily rounded up by the Boer Commandos, and the Uitlander uprising went off at half-cock; British policy in South Africa lay in ruins.
Who was responsible for the Raid? Rhodes, of course, whose imperial fantasies encompassed painting the whole map of Africa red; but what was the involvement of Joseph Chamberlain, the dynamic and expansionist Colonial Secretary? Contemporary distrust of Chamberlain, the lapsed Birmingham Radical, was deep and widespread, and a 'whiff of sulphur' still taints his reputation among modern historians.