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This is the first general history of the concentration camps of the Anglo-Boer or South African War in over fifty years, and the first to use in depth the very rich and extensive official documents in South African and British archives. It provides a fresh perspective on a topic that has understandably aroused huge emotions because of the great numbers of Afrikaners, especially women and children, who died in the camps. This fascinating social history overturns many of the previously held assumptions and conclusions on all sides, and is sure to stimulate debate.


Rather than viewing the camps simply as the product of the scorched-earth policies of the war, the author sets them in the larger context of colonialism at the end of the 19th century, arguing that British views on poverty, poor relief and the management of colonial societies all shaped their administration. The book also attempts to explain why the camps were so badly administered in the first place, and why reform was so slow, suggesting that divided responsibility, ignorance, political opportunism and a failure to understand the needs of such institutions all played their part.


 Since the original research arose from a project on the medical history of the camps, funded by the Wellcome Trust, there is a particularly strong focus on health and medicine, looking not only at the causes of mortality in the camps, but at the ideas which shaped the culture of the doctors and nurses ministering to the Boers.


The author has also used material derived from a database of the camp registers to argue, somewhat controversially, that the camp inmates were primarily landless bywoners, rather members of the middle classes, as people like Emily Hobhouse implied, and that the rather numerous men in the camps were young and able-bodied rather than the old men suggested in the conventional literature.


PAPERBACK, 391 pages. Published June 2013


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