The Boer Wars

In 1806 Great Britain had seized the Cape Colony in Southern Africa from the Dutch, in order to protect its sea route to India.

The Dutch Boer settlers of the area resented British control and hundreds of Boers departed on their historic Great Trek to the interior across the Orange River, where they founded the Orange Free State. Some Trekkers continued northward across the Vaal River to establish the South African Republic.(Boer is a Dutch word which means farmer)

In 1866 diamonds were discovered in an area claimed by the Orange Free State. Great Britain seized the area in 1871 and six years later they annexed the South African Republic. From 1880 to 1881 the Boers fought for the freedom of the South African Republic. The Boers won, and the South African Republic, or Transvaal as it became called, regained independence. The British government, however, retained the right to exercise control over treaties with foreign powers and a promise that foreign residents, known as the Uitlanders, would not be discriminated against.

In 1886, the world's richest goldfield was discovered in the Transvaal and many Uitlanders rushed into the arera until they outnumbered the Boer citizens by two to one. The Boers, were determined to preserve their power and they denied the foreigners political rights. Great Britain joined the Uitlanders in protesting. In 1896 there was an unsuccessful uprising against the Boers and later attempts to settle the problem failed. The Orange Free State joined Transvaal in declaring war on the British in 1899.

The Boers won victories in the early stages of the war, but in 1899 the British brought in more troops and captured the capitals of the two republics. Some Boer forces fled to the hills, where they carried on guerilla warfare. They finally surrendered in May, 1902. The two defeated republics became British colonies.