Edited By Anna Walczuk and Wladyslaw Witalisz
Uncivilised Boer Women and a Gentlemen’s War – British Imperial Discourse in Selected Instances of Boer Women’s Life Writing from the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902)
At the turn of the 19th century the Anglo-Boer War used to be called the last of the gentlemen’s war1. This concept implies that all parties of a conflict act according to some common rules, such as, for instance, those formulated in the Hague Convention in 1899. In the case of the Anglo-Boer war the application of the term turned out to be very controversial on account of the number of victims, the concentration camps issue, and consequent strong international criticism received by the British war politics.
Shortly after its outbreak in October 1899 the war turned into a total war. In February 1900, when the fights came into the guerrilla phase, the British introduced the scorched earth tactics in order to smother Boers’ resistance. Farms – where only women, elderly people and children stayed, after men had left to fight – became ‘feminized spaces’ (Bradford 2002: 43) and military targets at the same time. After their farms had been plundered and burnt, the inhabitants were transported to concentration camps, euphemistically called refugee camps. The initial series of British losses, most of all the so-called ‘black week’ in December 1899, dealt a severe blow to the imperial military superiority and the concept of the imperial masculinity (Bradford 2002: 41). It can be said that farm burning was a form of compensation for military weakness in the battlefields. Words of one British officer, attempting to justify this conduct, seem...
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