The war declared by the Boers on 11 October 1899 gave the British, as Kipling said, no end of a lesson'. The public expected it to be over by Christmas, but it proved to be the longest (two and three-quarter years), the costliest (over 200 million), the bloodiest (at least 22,000 British, 25,000 Boer and 12,000 African lives) and the most humiliating war that Britain fought between 1815 and 1914. Thomas Pakenham's was the first full-scale documentary history of the war to be attempted since 1910. His narrative is based on ...
The war declared by the Boers on 11 October 1899 gave the British, as Kipling said, no end of a lesson'. The public expected it to be over by Christmas, but it proved to be the longest (two and three-quarter years), the costliest (over 200 million), the bloodiest (at least 22,000 British, 25,000 Boer and 12,000 African lives) and the most humiliating war that Britain fought between 1815 and 1914. Thomas Pakenham's was the first full-scale documentary history of the war to be attempted since 1910. His narrative is based on first-hand and largely unpublished sources, from British and South African archives to the private papers, letters and diaries of the protagonists and soldiers of both sides, and the tape-recorded memories of over fifty survivors. Out of this historical goldmine, Thomas Pakenham has constructed a narrative as vivid and fast-moving as a novel, and throws new light on the blunders and personal feuds of the British generals. He writes movingly of the plight of the 100,000 black Africans who served both armies, and explains the final political victory of the Boers - how they lost the war but won the peace - with far-reaching consequences for Europe and South Africa.
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Recently, I had the opportunity to re-read (for the fourth time) Thomas Pakenham's magisterial history on the subject of, and titled, "The Boer War." This is an outstanding work at many levels: (i) great writing and use of primary sources including interviews of seventy (70) surviving Boer War veterans alive at the time of drafting; (ii) an excellent example of history as entertaining storytelling in the tradition of Thomas Carlyle; and (iii) gleaning insights from history as it relates to wars being fought more recently, indeed, even today.
I have recommended this work to students of Western military history (and used it myself as a source for research papers while as an undergraduate and graduate student), afficionados of British history and those studying insurgencies. It is a serious work for the military historian of the 1890-1914 period revealing the larger trends of war emerging in that era and providing parallels in the recent wars that the Superpowers have conducted in southwest Asia since 1979 (which incidentally is its year of publication). This book is also just plain fun to read and also recommended to the history enthusiast at large describing the oversized personalities of British and Boer political and military leaders, strategy and tactics and the life of the common soldier of both sides as well as the participation in this war of such future great leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi and Winston Churchill.
Read, learn and enjoy !
Apr 19, 2012
The book gives a comprehensive history of the Boer War. Great reading for those of us who want more background of the major players of the First World War.
Dec 12, 2008
Wealth of information written as a novel. The author has obviously done his homework. We did not learn this in History class! Don't think you will finish this in one session. As an ex South African I was fascinated by this book. If you are interested in the history this is a must read.......
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