Tired of Ash’s ‘revisionist history’?

I am well aware there are some who are roll their eyes at my ‘revisionist history’, and who are enraged by my ‘modern-day claims’ of Kruger’s aim being ‘to build an Empire from the Zambesi to the Cape’. I mean, how dare this Jonny-come-lately turn up, and shatter their cosy, ‘established’ version of the Boer War?

At the risk of raising their blood pressure still further, it is this sort of thing that seems to send them up the wall:

The main strength of the enemy had been concentrated for an invasion of Natal. The President hoped that it would sweep that colony clear of British troops down to the sea, and would hoist the Vierkleur over the port of Durban. Small detachments had been told off to guard the Colesberg, Bethulie, and Aliwal North bridges and to watch Basutoland. On the western frontiers of the Transvaal and the Free State strong commandos were assembling for the destruction of Baden-Powell’s retaining force at Mafeking and for the capture of Kimberley.

Both Kruger and Steyn aimed at results other than those achieved by the initiatory victories of 1880-1. They cherished the hope that the time had come for the establishment of a Boer Republic reaching from the Zambesi to Table Mountain; but, for the accomplishment of so great an enterprise, external assistance was necessary, the aid of their kinsmen in the south, and ultimately, as they hoped, an alliance with other Powers across the seas. The authorities at Pretoria and Bloemfontein realised fully that, though they might expect to have sympathisers in the colonies, active co-operation on any large scale was not to be counted on until successes in the field should persuade the waverers that, in casting in their lot definitely with the republican forces, they would be supporting the winning side.

The conquest of Natal and the capture of Kimberley would, it was thought, suffice to convince the most doubtful and timid. As soon, therefore, as the British troops in Natal had been overwhelmed and Kimberley occupied, the Boer commandos in the western theatre of war were to move south across the Cape frontier to excite a rising in that colony. A situation would thus be created which, as they calculated, would lead to the intervention of one or more European Powers, and terminate in the permanent expulsion of all British authority from South Africa.

My God, my excitable gaggle of critics must be thinking: where does Ash dream this rubbish up from? Why can’t he just sit quietly in the corner, and accept the Apartheid-era version of events: you know, the ‘established’ one that helps them sleep at night, and which pretends the poor old innocent Boers were the hapless victims of wicked British Imperialism.

Well, the real problem for these fellows is that I am not actually a revisionist at all. The passage above appears in General Maurice’s official History of the war in South Africa, 1899-1902 (Vol.1, p.48)… which, far from being a modern, ‘revisionist’ take on the war, was written way back in 1906.

In reality, the ‘revisionist’ history was that spewed out during the Apartheid-era, with National Party propaganda so eagerly aided-and-abetted by Pakenham’s God-awful, anti-British nonsense. Indeed, it is only in the last few years that the history of what really happened during the Boer War (and where the blame lies for it actually lies), is starting to be written about again; Tim Jeal’s biography of Baden-Powell addressed the blatant lies Pakenham made up about that great man, while Andrew Roberts’ biography of Salisbury details the realities of the run up to the Boer War, and just what a ghastly regime Kruger presided over. Elizabeth van Heyningen’s excellent book about the concentration camps shatters that central pillar of victimhood and mythology. Damian O’Connor, Spencer Jones, Hugh Rethman, Robin Smith and John Stephens have all released brilliant books on the Boer War over the last few years.

Hopefully it won’t be long before people wonder why anyone ever fell for the Apartheid-era ‘revisionist’ version.

1 Comment

  • James Grant Posted April 22, 2022 7:07 am

    Definitely not tired of your stuff!! Keep going, mate. Just glad someone has the balls to explode the bullshit we were taught back in the day

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