The Origins Of The Boer War

1993 words - 8 pages

The Origins of the Boer War

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In the late 19th century, the power of the British empire was at its peak. Spanning four continents and consisting of a quarter of the world’s population, it was, by far, the largest empire in the world. Its government was pushed to continually enlarge the empire’s territory by the overwhelming majority of Britons who supported imperialism, the policy of expanding a country’s power and wealth through the annexation of other territories, and believed their culture was superior to others’, and their duty was to ...view middle of the document...

The Cape was inconveniently inhabited by fervently nationalistic, stubborn Boers, who had arrived in 1652. They strongly objected to the British Empire’s “invasion” and disagreed with the new rules, specifically the abolition of slavery, as their economy was built on African slave labor. So, they left the Cape in search of new territory, hoping the British would never interfere with their lives again. The Boers founded two republics: Transvaal and Orange Free State. Britain, the principal power in South Africa, recognized their independence in 1852 and 1854. Life continued without severe tension between the British and the Boers for fifteen years until the first mineral deposits were found, and Britain and the Boers found themselves competing for the most valuable land in South Africa.
Diamonds were discovered in Griqualand in 1869, but it was unclear who owned the territory of the mines. Britain saw significant commercial gain in these diamond mines, and realized that whoever got the mines would have control over a fast-growing, profitable industry. As the biggest empire in the world, Britain had to maintain its status, and could not afford to let another country rise above it in any way—particularly, in this situation, economic hegemony in South Africa was the most important to protect. If Transvaal or Orange Free State seized the mines, they might grow so rich that British power would be threatened. Luckily for Britain, the mines were ruled in favor of Britain, and border lines were redrawn so the diamonds were fully in the Cape’s grasp. Anger brewed in the Boer Republics, as they were furious at Britain for stealing what the Boers believed to be their own land, and upset over the loss of potential diamond revenue. However, the Cape Colony benefited massively from the diamond mines. The fast-growing global diamond industry created a huge demand for the huge supply of cheap, easily accessible diamonds, which transformed the Cape’s economy. This renovation reasserted the British economic domination in South Africa, and compelled British administrators take a closer look at what other valuable natural resources South Africa might offer. After realizing that there might be more profitable minerals inland, the administration started to consider creating a federation that united the Boer Republics and Britain, in order to expand the Cape’s territory inland, and get more industrial resources from the rich South African land.
A major global threat to the British empire’s power was the scramble for Africa: an outbreak of European imperalist activity in Africa between 1870 and 1885, during which Western countries staked claims on African territories where they would create colonies, so as to expand their empire. This expansionist frenzy was a dangerous situation for Britain, because it needed to keep enlarging its empire and maintaining its Great Power status, but stop other nations from becoming bigger than it. The only way to do this was...

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