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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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Conclusions: The Men of the South African Constabulary



The Men of the South African Constabulary

On 17 March 1931 Lord and Lady Baden-Powell arrived in Sydney to start a two-month-long tour of Australia to promote Scouting. In less than twenty-five years Scouting in Australia had grown to approximately 60,000 boys, just under 20 percent of the male population from 11 to 16.1 Although the chief scout had asked for a quiet landing, several hundred well-wishers gathered at the docks. The couple shook some hands, and then went to Government House, where B-P spoke on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Radio National. The rest of their first week in New South Wales consisted of dinners, receptions, rallies, services and parades.2 Prior to B-P’s request for a subdued arrival, newspaper readers suggested whom should honor the ‘hero of Mafeking’ at the dock. Several put forward ‘Baden-Powell’s Police.’ One discussed why.

[In 1901 in] Johannesburg, I saw a military force marching… of about 600 of the B. P. Police. To this day I recollect my astonishment at the fine spectacle. The force marched with sloped arms, and the only music was from marching feet, in perfect rhythm, and the clink of spurs. The men looked as if they had been picked – in age 20 to 30 years, 5ft 8in to 5ft10in in height, and every face tanned a brick-red by the African sun. As a veteran of the South African War, and a combatant member of the ←321 | 322→A. I. F., I have...

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