Well, it must be some sort of a Christmas miracle, as I have finally seen an intelligent answer on Quora to a question on the Boer War:
The question was:
What were British motivations for setting up concentration camps in the Boer War?
And in among the normal ‘The wicked and over-confident British started the War and murdered my mother when she was a baby’ rubbish, there is this brilliant response from a chap called Stephen Tempest:
To save the lives of the Boer civilian population.
Now, before you explode in outrage, consider this. In all previous wars, when you burned down enemy villages and homesteads and stole their cattle, you left the civilians out there to starve to death. That’s what the Boers themselves did to the Basotho civilians in their wars against the kingdom of Lesotho a little while earlier. It was what the Zulus did in their own wars against everyone nearby. It was standard routine.
The British decided that this was inhumane, so instead of leaving the civilians to die, they’d bring them together (′concentrate them’) and provide them with food and shelter at British expense.
As it happened, the results of this policy fell tragically far short of its humanitarian aims. The camps were set up in great haste, and were badly organised. Food supplies were sometimes delayed, and were not the type of food the Boers were accustomed to. Inadequate sanitation led to the outbreak of disease — the same diseases already rampant in the camps of the British troops. Many thousands of people died.
The situation quickly came to the attention of the British media, and caused a scandal. The public demanded reform, and within half a year of the news of the camps reaching the newspapers, reforms had been implemented and the death toll in the camps was no higher than the death toll in British cities.
Now, if you want to know why the farms were being burned down in the first place, that’s a different question which the other answers here have already addressed.
What a pleasure to see that intelligent, well-considered responses are not completely banned on Quora.