A book review: The Boer War

It’s very unusual that I write a book review although I read many books. Writing a book review in a photography blog goes beyond usual but since I like the unusual … 😉

I’m living now for fourtheenandahalf year plus almost two months in South Africa and have read many books about its history but this one about THE BOER WAR beats them all….

BoerWarDe Boeren Oorlog (The Boer War) Author: Martin Bossenbroek. Publisher: Athenaeum, Amsterdam. ISBN: 9789025369934/NUR686

I’ve read many books about the history of South Africa, virtually all written by English and Afrikaans speaking South Africans and that includes literature about the Boer War (1899-1902). But never a book written from such a wide perspective (and from a variety of angles) as this 610 pages (including >40 with footnotes and index) masterpiece. It’s written in Dutch and hopefully English translations will be on the market soon for it should be read by South Africans of all walks of life… Until so far I only read books about the subject written from British or Afrikaner perspective. This book adds the Dutch angle to both perspectives. ‘The Dutch connection’ as Bossenbroek writes plays an important role in the years before the Boer War broke out. The story is mainly based on diaries, notes, letters, memoires and articles of British war correspondent Winston Churchill, Boer commander Deneys Reitz and Willem Leyds (Dutch State Attorney in the Transvaal).

The Boer War is intriguing is many aspects. It shows clearly that history repeats itself and that every war is nothing more than a ‘power game’ (or ‘money game’ if you like) on the expense of innocent people. It also learns that the British introduced ‘concentration camps’, which they already did a few centuries before in Australia, with the difference that this time more than 40,000 people (of the estimated >200,000) died in bizar circumstances during their ‘internship’; mainly children. It took over 100 years before the English government made some kind of apology … The Boer War is a ‘forgotten’ war but many used strategies (policies, etc.) were repeated (and sometimes perfected) in World Wars 1 (1914-1918) and 2 (1939-1945) by all involved parties (‘aggressors’, ‘allies’ and ‘resistance’).

In our previous South African residence (in a farm community near Robertson in the Western Cape) one of our neighbours once said (in Afrikaans) that a “book about Africa, South Africa included, can only be written by a true Afrikaner” ….. In essence not much has changed since the Boer War.

The (his)story of the Boer War begins in 1884 in the Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam ….

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