Boer War Essay

2485 words - 10 pages

When the British government finally delivered an ultimatum to Paul Krugers Transvaal government in 1899 the British cited Boer arms and the need for political control as their demands to avoid war. However in looking at war in South Africa it is impossible to ignore the fact that the Transvaal was home to the gold mines of the Witwatersrand that in the past few years had become the worlds primary gold field. J.A.Hobsons famous book of 1900 ?The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Effects? publicised what had become a common suspicion especially among South Africa?s Boers. Hobson, a liberal anti imperialist, who was interested in the connections between capitalism and imperialism broadcast the suggestion that the Boer war was a ?mine owners? war, fought ?in order to place a small international oligarchy of mine-owners and speculators in power at Pretoria? (J.A.Hobson in Smith,?95,p.394). Yet there were two poles of explanation for the Boer war and the flip side of Hobsons interpretation was also visible in the same year promoted by Amery?s imperialist political explanation, ?The Times History of the War in South Africa? also of 1900. In the most basic terms, discussion of the origins of the war has focused around economic or political factors. It is without doubt that capital and gold had at least a substantial role to play in the course of events in South Africa in the period but to what extent this was as part of a ?conspiracy?, however plausible, has now come into doubt.Perhaps firstly it is important to explain quite how dramatic the discovery of gold was in the Transvaal. In 1887 the Witwatersrand contributed only 1.2 tons of gold (0.8% of world production). Within five years this had increased to 30 tons (15% of world production) and by 1898 this output had again risen to 120 tons (over 25% of world production), (Ally,?94,p.13) . Gold mining was potentially a very profitable investment but requires large inputs of capital. This capital arrived quickly from South Africa?s English speaking capitalist investors such as Rhodes and the ?Randlords? who flooded into the rapidly expanding Johannesburg. These capitalists were able to raise the massive amounts of money that were needed to sink deep mines for gold. This was done through the creation of speculative mining companies on London?s stock exchange. Just to realise the scale of investment the two most powerful economic powers in the goldfields, Cecil Rhodes? Consolidated Gold Fields and Wernher, Beit & Eckstein commanded budgets larger than those of the state governments of Natal and the Orange Free State.These mine-magnates felt that the Afrikaner societies that had political control of the mine fields failed to ?fulfill the role of collaborating groups to the satisfaction of the gold mining community?(Atmore & Marks,?74,p.109). The fixed gold price and high costs of extraction meant that the mine owners were very concerned that the Transvaal state provide low cost labour. It was...

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