Over the years, many people have written to me asking about early South Africa, and more specifically about the Boer War (or, as the Boers called it, the Vryheidsoorlog, or [Second] War of Freedom) from 1899-1902.
A few days ago, I found an old 1992 documentary on BoobTube, and it’s not bad — only just a tad over an hour — and it covers the period quite well, and impartially. So that’s your weekend viewing assignment. (There will be a test.) If any questions of history remain, write to me and I’ll put the answers up in a follow-up post next weekend, when I’ll talk about my family’s relationship to the war.
There are three books I’ve always recommended on the topic: Rags of Glory by Stuart Cloete, and the book it’s partially based on, a campaign journal called Kommando written by Deneys Reitz, a wartime Bitter-Ender (you’ll get that explained in the video above) who went on to become the Deputy Prime Minister of the unified South Africa. Both are absolutely brilliant — Cloete’s book also incorporates a view of the Boer War from the British perspective, and it’s both accurate and illuminating.
The third — an actual history book — is The Boer War by Thomas Pakenham, generally regarded as the sine qua non of historical sources for the conflict. Written during the late 1980s, it’s devoid of any hint of the political correctness which infests later works on the topic.