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The Boer War: The Beginning of the End of the British Empire

   If the British were told that the Boer War was a war launched by diamond dealer Rhodes and others to control South Africa's mineral resources, at least at the time, the British public would not agree. isn't it? Didn’t they have previously condemned the Jansen expedition against the Boers allegedly instigated and supported by Rhodes and others? Didn’t Rhodes almost lose his reputation as a result, not only losing the post of Prime Minister of the South African Colony, but also nearly making him Did the company lose the various mining and operating concessions it owned?

  The so-called imperialists with their own interests launch all kinds of expansionary wars because of their own selfishness, and they are often more of a reckoning after the fall, especially when things are not going well, just like the American public often "wake up like a dream" after the fact: It turns out that what the U.S. government has done in the Middle East and Central Asia may be more for the interests of oil groups, rather than simply promoting democracy and freedom as it said before.

  On the one hand, this kind of making up after the fact means reflection and correction. On the other hand, there is also a sense that the media and the public are looking for a scapegoat to cover their shame. They want to prove that the original intention of the public to support the government’s actions is more or less good, and it is not irredeemable in nature. The imperialists of medicine may just be manipulated by interest groups.

  This kind of play of common enemies and blame after the fact is common in "Democratic Empires", and the author of "Diamonds, Gold and War: The Birth of the British, Boers and South Africa" ​​provides a more classic version of such plays. Allows people to deeply examine the logic and driving forces of modern national empires.

  Before launching the Boer War, how the interest groups in South Africa, the imperial bureaucracy and the public in the British mainland reached a consensus on the necessity of the war and formed a "collusion", which is the most interesting point of this book. One of the most critical points is how to define the trilateral interest overlapping area on the basis of the so-called imperial interest maximization.

  Let’s first look at the demands and plans of South African interest groups. The public needs to be mobilized, the imperial bureaucracy needs to be persuaded, and South African interest groups centered on mine owners such as Rhodes also need to persuade and mobilize themselves. Apparently the Rhodes did not think that the crusade against the Boers was purely to advance their own economic interests, although it was more conducive to the formation of a unified production and consumption market by linking the two Boer republics with the existing British colonies. This mode of thinking is not entirely out of self-deception, because after all, the Rhodes have already won the diamonds in the Kimberley area, and the Boers’ gold mining operation rights are mostly in the hands of British expatriates. It seems that there is no need for a little frivolity Xiaoli made a big fight.

  The Rhodes convinced themselves that they could not stand British expatriates in the Transvaal Republic who were not granted full citizenship and were treated as second-class citizens. In the eyes of the Boers, citizenship of the Britons, who have grown in number and control the economic lifeline, is tantamount to opening the door to thieves. And this is indeed the dream of the Rhodes. After completing the economic revolution against the Boers, through the political revolution, they will hit the big fortunes and fly into the gold, but they are still rudimentary - addicted to the pre-modern farming and animal husbandry economy and personal cowboys Heroism, and with serious racism - the Boers were incorporated into the British Empire as a model of modern civilization. In the process, the interests of South Africa, the Boers, the British in the Boer Republic, and the British Empire were all won.

  For the imperial bureaucrats in London, if the Boer turf could be brought under their command, it was a natural desire. The empire's sphere of influence and glory, as well as system and road confidence, have been further blessed, adding a large overseas market, which can more powerfully deter the fledgling Germans who are frequently active in Southwest and East Africa, and so on. Of course, for individual bureaucrats, there are also more opportunities to serve as officials of the frontier, which can add a rich and colorful stroke to their careers.

  For the British public who have been immersed in the glory of the British Empire for many years and have begun to enjoy the return of the economic benefits of the colonies, taming the Boers not only means more employment opportunities and more dividends to be shared in the expansion of the empire, but also means the success of the British civilization paradigm. . As South Africa becomes more firmly a part of the British Empire, more and more Africans from Cape Town to Cairo will enjoy the fruits of modernization and shine in the light of civilization.

  In this way, the three parties seem to have inadvertently reached a conspiracy that everyone is happy with. Each party has a high-sounding reason, and each party also has a small Jiujiu that does not need to be declared. What is absent here is the object of conspiracy, the opinions of the Boers seem to be of little importance, and what the local black aborigines think and think is even less of a concern.

  This is also the standard of all wishful thinking about imperial dreams or imperial diseases: what is good for the empire must be good for the world. The expansion of the boundaries of imperial interests must mean the expansion of civilized order. And because the borders of the empire's continued expansion need to be defended and preserved, the flag of the empire will surely travel all the way to the ends of the earth, until it fills the world. Once a modern national empire enters this state, it will basically usher in a watershed from prosperity to decline, and it will soon encounter the boundaries of its own capabilities: more and more interests need to be defended, but more and more benefits from expansion. few. This is also the underlying reason why the former established empires do not believe in the peaceful rise of emerging powers and draw a clear boundary for expansion. It is not that they are too sophisticated, but that they are too familiar with the charm of this unstoppable self-driven expansion.

  For the first time in the Boer War, the British Empire, which had previously been largely smooth sailing, felt its old age and its inadequacy for the first time. Once the opponent changes from the aborigines and pre-modern ethnic groups who know nothing about modern warfare to the white Boers who are also familiar with modern weapons and firepower organization and configuration, and deeply understand the essence of guerrilla warfare, the overwhelming advantage is instantly overwhelming. turned into nothing. The British Empire was like a waning giant, played around by Boers as nimble and fearless as little David.

  For a modern national empire that has been infected with the disease of wealth and wealth, in an initiatively provoked war, the most fundamental premise is that the war will be smooth and swift. If not, public opinion is like the ebb tide, and yesterday's support quickly turned into accusations and criticisms. People feel that they have been deceived, fooled, and become cannon fodder. Conspiracy theories are rampant, and fear and refusal to fight will also become the norm. At this time, it has become a new consensus to end as soon as possible, although in reality, the so-called decent and rapid ending has always been transformed into twists and turns. An exhausting and painful farce.

  The Boer War was undoubtedly a lose-lose situation. The Boer life was ruined, and their homeland became a piece of scorched earth. After paying an unexpected heavy price, the British Empire gained an unwilling new South African Federation, and inadvertently strengthened the South African community consciousness with Boer culture as the main body. Foreshadowing the separation of each other in the future.


  The strength of the British Empire, of course, was that its mature constitutional framework could accommodate disputes and compromises, giving newcomers a grudgingly desirable position, and allowing South Africa to enjoy ample room for self-government despite apparent compliance. In return, South Africa greatly aided the British Empire during World War I and World War II, and Smuts, who was a major headache for the British during the Boer War, also became a key role in the Imperial Military Council during World War I.

  If the end of the British Empire was a long repertoire, the Boer War was certainly a starting point, although not many people recognized it at the time. From the beginning to the end to the long aftermath, the Boer War shows the logical curve of the rise and fall of the British Empire.


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