South African Journal of Science
Print version ISSN 0038-2353
HEYNINGEN, Elizabeth van. A tool for modernisation? The Boer concentration camps of the South African War, 1900-1902. S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2010, vol.106, n.5-6, pp. 52-61. ISSN 0038-2353.
While not denying the tragedy of the high mortality of people in the concentration camps in the South African War of 1899-1902, this article suggests that, for Lord Milner and the British Colonial Office, the camps became a means of introducing the rural society of the Boers to the facilities of modern life. To some extent they became, in effect, part of Milner's project for 'civilising' and assimilating the Boers into British colonial society. The high mortality rate was finally contained through the introduction of a modern public health system, including the use of statistics and the employment of qualified doctors and nurses. Young Boer women working in the camp hospitals as nurse aids were trained as 'probationers' and classes in infant and child care were offered to the Boer mothers. In addition, the need for adequate water supplies and effective sanitation meant that an infrastructure was established in the camps that familiarised the Boers with modern sanitary routines and left a legacy of more substantial services for the Transvaal and Orange Free State villages.
Keywords : Anglo-Boer War; concentration camps; historical statistics; Lord Milner; measles mortality; South African War.