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The Boer War (1979)

by Thomas Pakenham

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808519,382 (4.03)15
Thomas Pakenham has constructed a narrative as vivid and fast moving as a novel. In many ways he challenges the accepted views of historians. He exposes the crucial role of two of the Gold Bugs (the richest of the Rand millionaires) in precipitating the war. He throws new light on the blunders of the British generals, Buller and Roberts, revealing a personal feud between the men comparable to the one between Lords Lucan and Cardigan that led to the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War. He writes movingly about the plight of the 100,000 black Africans who served both armies, and he 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.Illustrated with over 200 color and black-and-white photographs and maps, this new edition of a definitive book makes a unique and invaluable contribution to an understanding of South African history at a time of momentous change.… (more)
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Showing 5 of 5
I am happy to own this book. The conflict itself is covered in sufficient detail, and the military and political machinations are covered very well. the work appears to be relatively unbiased, and the covering of the effect of the war on racial relations is quite good. The prose moves well, and the characters of the principal players explores their motivations wisely. It is a fit companion to the author's other book, "the Scramble for Africa, completed twelve years later. The maps are disappointing, as the publisher went for the type of map that plonks down the principal towns and a few rivers, and leaves the rest of the map a flat wasteland, removing the terrain features that direct so much of military planning. It is cheaper, I suppose....but it reduces the amount of real information the purchaser, and hopefully reader, could obtain. But well worth the perusal. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Mar 8, 2020 |
This three inch book of 650 pages is printed in what – to my tired old eyes – seems to be an eight point font, or less, and I struggled to read the closely packed history at first. But I persevered, gradually focusing on the facts and not the font, and found the extra effort well rewarded. In fact, by the second day, I could not put this impressive magnum opus down. The Boer War (1899 – 1902) was to be the most costly, in terms of blood and treasure, in the hundred years of Queen Victoria’s “little wars” period, and was a true forecast of the butchery that smokeless rifles fired from trenches would effect in the slaughter of WWI.

Thomas Pakenham is in fact the 8th Earl of Longford, and his grandfather fought the Boers in South Africa, and was seriously wounded in a typical ‘last stand’ affair where 80 of his fellow troops were killed. The author, besides being a respected and prize winning historian (perhaps best known for his The Scramble for Africa (http://www.librarything.com/work/22396) is also a noted arborist.

The book offers great insights – several of which are detailed here for the first time- into the politics of the war, both in Cape Town and the government parliaments and leaders, that were behind the campaigns and battles. A drum roll of famous characters thunders through this work, Kitchener, Roberts (“Bobs”), Kipling, Botha, Jan Smuts, Chamberlain … names that echo still.

I thoroughly recommend this book for history lovers and for those seeking the widest picture of a complicated, tortuous and very political war – A.J.P. Taylor added to his recommend that ”…the reader turns each page with increasing fascination and admiration”. I certainly did.
4 vote John_Vaughan | Sep 23, 2012 |
Excellent book, Very rich in detail. This makes the battles sometimes incomprehensible, but this could be because english is not my mothertongue or because the exact manouevres are not of particular interest to me.

I am dutch, and therefore have a natural sympathy for the boers. I found Pakenham unbiased although he does focus primarily on the english side of the war which is too bad. This is probably because the availabe sources are primarily of english origins.

Nevertheless, good book, could recommend it to anyoen interested in (british)military history or the boers. ( )
  WouterGil | May 29, 2009 |
1740 The Boer War, by Thomas Pakenham (read 19 Sep 1982) This is a 1979 book by the eldest son of the Earl of Longford. It is excellent, though it has a different than normal view. It says Buller was an able and good general and that Roberts and Kitchener could hardly do anything right! And I think the author makes a good case for his views. It was an awful war, and of course should not have been . But I could not help but be 'for' the British, of course. A very good book, but I probably have read enough on the Boer War. ( )
  Schmerguls | Nov 2, 2008 |
Compelling reading - a blend of historical fact and strong journalistic input ( )
  landofashes | Nov 5, 2007 |
Showing 5 of 5
Lost to the annals of history, the Boer War has failed to resonate in the hearts and minds of many. Perhaps the reason for Britain's collective failed memory is the fact that a band of ill equipped South African farmers were able to beat one of the most powerful empires.
added by John_Vaughan | editHelium, Ruza Modra (Mar 13, 2012)
 
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Epigraph
"Look back over the pages of history; consider the feelings with which we now regard wars that our forefathers in their time supported...see how powerful and deadly are the fascinations of passion and of pride." - W.F. Gladstone, 26 November 1879, condeming the first annexation of the Transvaal.
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For Val, in gratitude once again, And to the memory of the war veterans who told me what it was like to be there.
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Johannesburg was not ready.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Thomas Pakenham has constructed a narrative as vivid and fast moving as a novel. In many ways he challenges the accepted views of historians. He exposes the crucial role of two of the Gold Bugs (the richest of the Rand millionaires) in precipitating the war. He throws new light on the blunders of the British generals, Buller and Roberts, revealing a personal feud between the men comparable to the one between Lords Lucan and Cardigan that led to the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War. He writes movingly about the plight of the 100,000 black Africans who served both armies, and he 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.Illustrated with over 200 color and black-and-white photographs and maps, this new edition of a definitive book makes a unique and invaluable contribution to an understanding of South African history at a time of momentous change.

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