The Boer War by Thomas Pakenham


WHEN THE ACCLAIMED BRITISH WRITER AND HISTORIAN Thomas Pakenham published his book on the Boer War (1899-1902) in 1979 it was greeted immediately as the definitive history of this conflict between British Empire troops and conscripted farmers of the twoAfrikaner republics in South Africa.  It was a bloody war: the Boers lost about 25,000 killed, the British an estimated 22,000 and the indigenous African population saw 12,000 killed.

  • It started badly for the British.  They lost engagement after engagement until they were eventually able to gain the upper hand in set-piece warfare through a massive influx of troops.

This phase of the war was followed by guerrilla attacks by mounted Boer commandos that led to British reprisals that were resented for generations afterwards by Afrikaner South Africans.  Farms were destroyed and woman and children were sent to concentration camps in an effort to rein in the commandos.  Many died in these camps and there was outrage in Britain as well as South Africa.

  • Much has been written and published about the Boer War but Pakenham’s book is regarded as the definitive account,  its riveting narrative making use of source materials from archives and private letters and documents that had never been tapped before.

This larger-format version takes advantage of the many photographs, maps and drawings that Pakenham accumulated over the eight years of his research.  It provides a profusely illustrated volume that is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the tumultuous history of South Africa in recent times.

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