Gender, Race, and the Writing of Empire: Public Discourse and the Boer War

Gender, Race, and the Writing of Empire: Public Discourse and the Boer War

Gender, Race, and the Writing of Empire: Public Discourse and the Boer War

Gender, Race, and the Writing of Empire: Public Discourse and the Boer War

Synopsis

This book looks at the ways Victorian ideas about gender and race supported British imperialism at the turn of the century. It examines the Boer War of 1899-1902 through the war writings of literary figures such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Olive Schreiner, H. Rider Haggard and Rudyard Kipling, and also through newspapers, propaganda, and other forms of public debate in print. Paula M. Krebs' analysis of the part played by ideas about gender and race in public discourse makes a significant new contribution to the study of British imperialism.

Excerpt

Still reeling from the series of setbacks in December 1899 that came to be known as Black Week, the British army by March 1900 had settled on a new strategy to try to finish the war in South Africa – the war that General Lord Roberts had said would be over by Christmas. Searching for a way to cut off Boer fighters in the field from food and supplies, the British, under the command of Lord Roberts, began to burn the homes and crops of the South African men who were away on commando duty. The farm-burning policy became systematic under Lord Kitchener, who succeeded Roberts as commander-in-chief of the British forces in South Africa in December 1900. Many African settlements and crops in the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (the Transvaal) were added to the list of what was to be “cleared, ” and Kitchener was left with the problem of what to do with all the noncombatants thus displaced.

In September of that year General John Maxwell had formed camps for surrendered burghers in Bloemfontein and Pretoria, and on 20 December 1900 Kitchener officially proclaimed a South Africa-wide policy whereby surrendered burghers and their families would be housed and fed in such camps, courtesy of the British military. Separate camps were established for whites and for blacks, and because the British military was unwilling to treat women and children in stationary camps differently from soldiers in temporary camps, problems soon arose with food, fuel, and general health conditions.

In June 1901 a report by Emily Hobhouse, who had been distributing clothing and blankets in the camps for the London-based, anti-war, South African Women and Children's Distress Fund, revealed to Britain the unhealthy conditions in the camps. The British government's own figures for the mortality rates in the camps in late summer and fall that year made the conditions in the camps a national scandal. After Hobhouse's report was published, the government rebutted with its own . . .

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