Lunchtime Lecture: Picturing the Boer War, 1899–1902

Past event archive
1 May 2014, 13:15

Ondaatje Wing Theatre


  • Lecture

Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, by Francis Henry Hart, for  Elliott & Fry, 1896 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell
by Francis Henry Hart, for Elliott & Fry
NPG x39330

The Boer War should more properly be called the South African War as it involved all ethnic groups.  The main conflict was, of course, between the British Empire and the two Afrikaner republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, but some black Africans were armed by the British and almost as many perished in the concentration camps as Boer women and children.  The war brought Britain rudely into the twentieth century, and was initially a humiliation for Britain's professional armies as they were briskly defeated by Boer Commandos.  In the end the sheer weight of numbers and equipment drove the Afrikaners to seek a negotiated peace, but not before the ruthless Kitchener had unleashed a scorched earth policy which saw thousands of Boer farms burnt and their livestock slaughtered.  Outsized personalities entered the fray: Cecil Rhodes, Baden Powell, Paul Kruger, Lords Kitchener and Roberts, Gandhi, Joseph Chamberlain, and two heroic and liberal women Emily Hobhouse and Mary Kingsley.  Within eight years of the Boer surrender in 1902 the British had unified the whole country as a new Dominion, the Union of South Africa, in which the supremacy of the white population seemed guaranteed in perpetuity.

Professor Denis Judd won a State Scholarship to Oxford and took his PhD at London University.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Professor Emeritus of History at London Metropolitan University, and currently Professor of History at New York University in London. He has published over 25 books including the biographies of Joseph Chamberlain, George V, Prince Philip, A. J. Balfour, Jawaharlal Nehru, George VI, Lord Reading, and the children’s writer Alison Uttley, books on historical and military subjects, stories for children, and two novels. Among his most recent books are the highly praised and best selling Empire: the British Imperial Experience from 1765 to the Present (new edition 2011), The Boer War, with Keith Surridge, (new edition 2013) and The Lion and the Tiger; the rise and fall of the British Raj (2005).  He has reviewed and written extensively in the national and international press, including the Guardian, Independent, Sunday Telegraph, International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Mail on Sunday, Times Literary Supplement, and Literary Review.  Among the academic journals he has contributed to are the Journal of Commonwealth History, Journal of Contemporary History, Journal of Irish Studies, South Asia, History Today and the BBC History Magazine - for which he is an academic adviser. He has written several programmes for BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service, is an occasional adviser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and is often interviewed on national and international television and radio.

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