‘The people are grateful’
The discourse of modernization in the concentration camps of the South African War, 1899–1902
in Rhetorics of empire
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The conquest of the Boer republics in South Africa presented a slightly unusual case of imperial expansion in that the enemy were of European origin. This lent a defensive edge to British rhetoric since, in continental Europe, the war was often seen as a human rights issue, the independence of a small proud nation against the might of British imperialism. The concentration camps, with their high mortality, became the measure both of the inhumanity of war and the morality of anti-imperialism. The British attitude to Boer men in the camps was particularly ambivalent, mediated by middle-class notions of masculinity. On the one hand the Boers were the enemy, portrayed as an uneducated African peasantry. On the other hand Boer men were redeemable for they shared with British men the virtues of a military nation.

Rhetorics of empire

Languages of colonial conflict after 1900


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