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Realizing Greater Britain

The South African Constabulary and the Imperial Imposition of the Modern State, 1900−1914


Scott C. Spencer

In anticipation of victory over the two Boer republics in the South African War (1899–1902), British imperial policymakers formed the South African Constabulary (SAC, 1900–1908) to lead reconstruction efforts. Uniquely, policymakers injected two goals of imperial management into the force and its 10,000 men, recruited from the British Isles and settler colonies: integrate the conquered territories into the British Empire and foster an imperial-national adherence to a Greater Britain. Following the war, offi cers and constables attracted the Boers to the empire by suppressing Africans more thoroughly, consistently and systematically than their prior regimes ever had. While some SAC men remained in South Africa following their service, most carried their enhanced white, imperial-national allegiances to the Isles, empire and beyond.

Combining traditional archival with innovative digital research, this book narrates global integration and imperial governance through individuals, from Boy Scout founder Robert Baden-Powell and imperialist Alfred Milner to Canadian Mountie Sam Steele, Irish doctor Edward Garraway and, foremost, thousands of SAC men. The author argues that opportunistic British agents carried the apparatus of the coercive, legible and bureaucratic modern state across the British Isles, the empire and the world, leaving challenging legacies for successor governments and former subjects to confront.

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Chapter 6 Managing the Colonies, 1903–1907


Chapter 6

Managing the Colonies, 1903–1907

The Constabulary at this post are friendly with Mr Middleton J.P., but not so friendly as we should like to be owing to his always interfering between the Constabulary and natives … Mr Middleton has considerable influence with the natives – certainly much more than anyone else about here. It is necessary for Mr Middleton to keep on good terms with the natives in order to keep their custom. Mr Middleton keeps a big kaffir store here.1

— SAC Corporal William Merritt, 24 November 1905

On 22 October 1905, Mothibe (Motebe) Malapo, a village headman of a Basutoland kraal, crossed the Caledon river and entered Orange River Colony to buy goods at the store of merchant Charles E. Middleton, additionally a justice of the peace (JP).2 Malapo first stopped at the SAC post at Brindisi, near Fouriseburg, to report. He unfortunately carried an out-of-date native pass and, illiterate, claimed he left the correct pass at home.3 (Both passes were the same color.) Constable George Lendrum promptly arrested him. A few months earlier, native constable Abenaar Yoel had challenged Malapo to present his pass in Lendrum’s presence, only for Malapo to out-gallop Yoel to Middleton’s store. ←211 | 212→Middleton vouched, falsely, for Malapo as one of his ‘boys.’ Lendrum, new to the area, had taken Middleton, the local white ‘big man,’ at his word.4 Conflicting evidence existed of what exactly happened next. Malapo, with testimony supported by...

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