I’m republishing this post because this outstanding documentary, which had been taken down by Youtube, has been reposted with good sound quality. Links to each of the four parts are provided below. Don’t miss it.
My focus of late has been on the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. Two of my Frontier Partisans — Frederick Russell Burnham and Deneys Reitz — fought in this war between the British Empire and the Boer Republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal.
The Boer War is fascinating to me, because it carries features of frontier irregular warfare mixed with the beginnings of 20th Century warfare. This era is my wheelhouse.
Exploring resources on the Internet, I stumbled upon an outstanding Boer War documentary on Youtube. It ranks with the Channel Four doco “The First World War” as among the best history documentaries I’ve seen. And I think they’ve got the same narrator…
The Youtube series is broken up into four 50-minute segments — so there’s plenty of time to get some depth. The history is remarkably even-handed. The British cupidity in their efforts to pressure the Boer Republics is evident. Perfidious Albion was after the gold. The Boers are recognized as freedom fighters. Yet the film is unflinching in depicting the Boers’ racial attitudes, which would harden into the most notorious white supremacist regime in the world later in the century.
The role of the blacks in this “white man’s war” is given thorough examination. Blacks fought on both sides, with many black families remaining loyal to the Boer families they served. Many fought for or spied for the British, which was exceedingly dangerous. The Boers notoriously shot blacks they found in British service “like dogs.”
Atrocities committed on both sides are exposed. The British concentration camp system — designed to isolate Boer guerilla fighters from a supportive population — was an imperial crime. Though the intent was not genocidal, mismanagement and neglect led to the deaths of thousands upon thousands of Boer women and children. Blacks, too, were put in concentration camps where as many as 18,000 died. Black men were pressed into forced labor by the British.
Boers razed at least one black town, and were known to castrate Boer collaborators, known as “joiners.” It was a nasty, nasty affair.
All of this is depicted with an extraordinary array of images — many of which I had never seen before; interviews with people who were children during the war or descendants of combatants; and modern footage shot on the site of key events.
This is so worth 2-1/2 hours of your time. I’ll surely watch it several more times and gain from it each time.