The same old myths…

I came across this online article recently:

As the site where it comes from claims to be one for people who ‘love Britain’, it was a little surprising / disappointing to see that the author trots out the same old tired, unreferenced claims.

Things like:

‘The first Boer War (1880-1881) was one such conflict and represented the first attempt by the British to annex the Transvaal region of southern Africa. The motivation for the British annexation was threefold; first, they wished to capitalise on the potential gold resources of the region; second, they wished to prevent other imperial powers from expanding into southern Africa; and third, they wished to control the sea route around the south of Africa to their premier imperial holding of India’.

Retention of the Cape to protect the route to India was undoubtedly a cornerstone of Imperial strategy, but the idea what the British coveted the Transvaal for the gold reserves is simply untrue – the Witwatersrand gold rush only happened in 1886… fully five years after the First Boer War, and almost 10 years after the annexation.
The reality is that the Transvaal was an utterly failed state by the time of the (entirely bloodless) British annexation – an annexation performed by a troop of 25 mounted police from Natal, and done to prevent the Transvaal being overrun by the Pedi with whom they had rashly picked a fight.

Then the article moves on to the Second Boer War, stating:

‘The Boers were reluctant to allow the uitlanders voting rights and other privileges due to fears that the ethnic Boers would be outnumbered and consequently lose their position of power in the country. The British decided to intervene, allegedly on behalf of the Uitlanders, but also as a consequence of their designs on the rich mineral resources of the Transvaal. In response to British aggression, the Boers of Transvaal, allied to the Orange Free State, declared war on the 11th of October 1899, launching a full-scale invasion of the Cape Colony.’

Again, the notion that Britain wanted to steal the ‘rich mineral resources’ of the ZAR is simply untrue – no matter how many times it is stated as fact. The gold mines of the Transvaal were (as I have written in countless other articles) owned by foreign (mainly British) investors… so we are meant to believe that the British government wanted to steal the gold mines from British capitalists? That is clearly nonsensical, as Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle pointed out as far back as 1902:

‘The gold mines are private companies, with shares held by private shareholders, German and French, as well as British. Whether the British or the Boer flag flew over the country would not alienate a single share from any holder, nor would the wealth of Britain be any way greater … how is Britain the richer because her flag flies over the Rand? The Transvaal will be a self-governing colony, like all other British colonies, with its own finance minister, its own budget, its own taxes, even its own power of imposing duties upon British merchandise … We know all this because it is part of our British system, but it is not familiar to those nations who look upon their colonies as sources of direct revenue to the mother country.’

Writing in his excellent book, ‘Fueling the Empire’, John Stephens addressed the oft-made claim that British lust for gold was to blame for everything:

‘Britain based the defence of her monetary stability, in the event of international gold rushes, on her position as a creditor nation, but did not build up a massive gold reserve beyond what was required for the issue of currency … France, too, defended the stability of her currency based on a status as a creditor nation, but in addition, she built up a massive gold reserve as a second line of defence. France, not Britain, was the greatest European purchaser of new gold for strategic purposes … there were no compelling reasons at that particular moment for Britain to wish to control the government of the Transvaal in order to have control over its gold mines. Whatever gold was mined in the Transvaal would in any event find its way to the international gold market and the European Monetary System, to which Britain had as much access as anybody else. Moreover, whoever bought the gold had to pay the companies that mined it. The mining companies made profits from selling gold, not those who controlled the governments of the producing countries. For Britain, there would thus be enormous disadvantages in taking over the Transvaal, but no conceivable economic advantage to governing a gold-producing colony—it was a much better proposition to hold prime trading rights with a gold-producing colony. There was thus no economic imperative driving Britain to covet the Transvaal for its gold.’

And as for the so-called ‘British aggression’ mentioned in the article… where is the evidence of this? Yes, Britain put diplomatic pressure on the ZAR to reform its blatantly unfair franchise system… but then, virtually the whole world put diplomatic pressure on Apartheid-era South Africa to reform its blatantly unfair franchise system – but I have never seen that described as that ‘international aggression’.

Strangely, the article makes no mention of the endless republican aggression toward their black neighbours, or their ceaseless rapacious expansion. Likewise, the article fails to point out that Kruger and his acolytes not only dreamed of replacing Britain as the dominant power in the region, but also of building a vast Afrikaans Empire:

‘The Boer ideal was ‘Anti-British Federation in South Africa’. Mr Secretary Leyds has been appointed a kind of a Boer Minister in Europe, where he will no doubt do his utmost to encourage the idea that the federated Dutch Republics can be relied upon by anyone who wishes to destroy British supremacy in South Africa’.
William Stead, 1897

‘Freedom will rise in Africa like the sun from the morning clouds, inasmuch freedom rose in the United States…Then it will be from the Zambesi to Simon’s Bay: Africa for the Africander’.
President Paul Kruger

Unfortunately the myths surrounding the Boer War have been said and re-said so many times that they are simply accepted by many as ‘fact’, and zero critical thought is applied.

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