• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

To what extent was the adoption of a scorched earth policy after 1900 by Britain in the Boer War justifiable.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Ashley Register To what extent was the adoption of a scorched earth policy after 1900 by Britain in the Boer War justifiable Those that would argue that the destruction that was wrought during the period when General Lord Kitchener exercised his well-known "Scorched Earth Policy", whereby all Boer farms were destroyed, and the inhabitants taken to concentration death camps was justifiable are generally in the minority. It was in these camps that between 25,000 and 29,000 Boer women and children died, not to mention the more than 15,000 thousand black people whose deaths and numbers were never properly recorded. This method of warfare has left seeds of bitterness which today, after one hundred years, has still not entirely been forgotten. In early March 1901 Lord Kitchener decided to break the stalemate that the extremely costly war had settled into. It was costing the British taxpayer �2,5 million a month. He decided to sweep the country bare of everything that can give sustenance to the Boers i.e. cattle, sheep, horses, women and children. This scorched earth policy led to the destruction of about 30000 Boer farmhouses and the partial and complete destruction of more than forty towns. Thousands of women and children were removed from their homes by force. They had little or no time to remove valuables before the house was burnt down. They were then taken by oxwagon or in open cattle trucks to the nearest camp. Conditions in the camps were less than ideal. Tents were overcrowded. Reduced-scale army rations were provided. ...read more.

Middle

was. It was also simple, and thus was a far more appropriate solution, especially when considering the nature of the war: "an enemy that always escapes, a country so vast there is always room to escape, supplies such as they want abundant almost everywhere" (Kitchener in his letter to Brodrick) It would seem that this was the only solution. However, there was now the question of what to do with the women and children who had become homeless as a result of the policy. Thus camps were set up; it was this clearance of civilians into the 'concentration camps' that would now dominate the last phase of the war. To the world England pretended to act very humanely by caring for the fighting Boers' women and children in "refugee camps". An English school textbook published in 1914 in Johannesburg, but printed in England, Historical Geography: South Africa, by JR Fisher, makes the following claim: "During the later stages of the war, the relations, women and children, of those Boers still in the field, were fed and cared for at the expense of Great Britain, a method of procedure which, though humane, postponed the end of the war, at the expense of many valuable lives and much money." This statement is contradicted by various sources. The Cape Argus of 21 June 1900 clearly states that the destitution of these women and children was the result of the English's plundering of farms: "Within 10 miles we (the English) burned not less than six farm homesteads. Between 30 and 40 homesteads were burned and totally destroyed between Bloemfontein and Boshoff". ...read more.

Conclusion

To this day, Germany is being forced to pay annual compensation to the Jews, which means that Germans who were not even born at the time of World War 2, still have to suffer today for alleged atrocities committed by the Germans. Should England subject herself to the same principles applied to Germany, then should England do everything within her power to reinstitute the Boer republics and to pay annual compensation to the Boers for the atrocities committed against the Boers? This may seem like a bizarre notion, yet on this occasion, the historiography from the last 100 years would work in the favour of the Boers and in theory should do so. The fact that "Their only crime was that they stood between England and the gold of Transvaal." (Pretorius) should justify the actions of the British, despite the fact that there are many reasons for the British actions during the war is fantastical. Essentially, the war was due to the greed of British colonialists, and in retrospect, it would appear that this is a far more bizarre notion than that which would suggest that like the Germans to the Jews, Britain should also pay compensation. Essentially therefore, there is little doubt that the argument that Britain's actions were justified is limited. Few would argue that the Americans had a valuable reason for invading Vietnam with regard to the amount of innocent deaths and suffering that was caused as a result of this; similarly, Britain had a relatively invaluable reason for it's actions, and indeed for the war in the first place. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level International History, 1945-1991 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level International History, 1945-1991 essays

  1. Why did tension increase in Europe between 1900 and 1914?

    In fact they had the effect of exhausting the German soldiers, which made final defeat all the more certain. Operation Michael * On 21 March 1918 the Germans launched a massive surprise attack on the Allied forces at St.

  2. "To what extent did the Boer War change attitudes to Empire in Britain?

    Britain especially such which would result in a direct threat to their government i.e giving the Uitlanders the right to vote so that as they grow they will become more powerful and pose a political threat. It was this issue that was the immediate cause of the outbreak of the Boer war.

  1. American History.

    In New England, people saw it as "Mr. Madison's War" and didn't want to enlist from the start. Financial problems due to lowered revenue/import taxes b/c of the embargo? and war. Regional disagreements - New England state militias wouldn't leave their? state lines. - But, of course, the US decided to try and invade Canada anyway, which led

  2. To what extent was independence a gift from Britain.

    being Britain's debtor to its creditor acutely reflects the gradual decline in the strength of Britain's economic grasp over India. Coupled with the realisation that it was no longer necessary to have political control as a prerequisite of stable trade, the economics of Britain's situation appears to make withdrawal beneficial.

  1. The Sieges of Ladysmith, Mafeking, and Kimberley

    Forming what was informally dubbed the "Black Watch", they played an invaluable role in the defense of Mafeking. This completely disproved British Imperialism, showing that the blacks were on an equal or perhaps higher level. To the Boers, this was an unprecedented and morally reprehensible action.

  2. Describe the historical claims of Britain and Argentina to the Falkland Islands

    The discussions continued up to February 1982 just before the Falkland War began. 2)How and why did the policy of the British Government toward the Falkland Islands change after the Argentinian invasion of April 1982? In the 17th century when the Falklands had been founded and captured for the crown,

  1. In 1915 a British Newspaper printed a letter from a 'Lady Reader' who claimed, ...

    Some young men lied about their age so that they could go to war and fight for their country. Wilfred Owen, who was a World War One poet, wrote in 'Disabled': "He asked to join. He didn't have to beg; Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years" Many people backed the war.

  2. Was Canadian participation in the Boer

    In fact, the Britain was using Canada just for their own good. Moreover, Canada certainly had no issues with the Boers that they needed to go to war. In the past, Canadians and Boers show no major conflicts. So, Canada definitely should not go to war against Boers.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work