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Description - The Boer War by Thomas Pakenham

The war declared by the Boers on 11 October 1899 gave the British, as Kipling said, 'no end of a lesson'. It proved to be the longest, the costliest, the bloodiest and the most humiliating campaign that Britain fought between 1815 and 1914. Thomas Pakenham has written the first full-scale history of the war since 1910. His narrative is based on first-hand and largely unpublished sources ranging from the private papers of the leading protagonists to the recollections of survivors from both sides. Out of this historical gold-mine, the author has constructed a narrative as vivid and fast-moving as a novel, and a history that in scholarship, breadth and impact will endure for many years.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349104669
ISBN-10: 0349104662
Format: Paperback
(199mm x 130mm x 43mm)
Pages: 688
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 3-Oct-1991
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - The Boer War by Thomas Pakenham

UK Kirkus Review » A masterpiece of military history, overturning many received ideas. Working over unexamined archives, and talking to survivors, Pakenham casts new light on the origins and the course of the Anglo-Boer war of 1899-1902, from which modern South Africa derives. He reveals a link between Milner, the governor-general who provoked the war, and Rhodes and Beit, the gold-mine owners who wanted to profit from it; he explains the quarrels between the British generals, who fought each other when they had time to spare from fighting the Boers; he helps to rehabilitate Buller, whom he shows at least to have done his best; and he emphasizes the importance of the black inhabitants, who provided a fifth of the war's 60,000-odd dead, and have been ignored in many previous works on the subject. A fine display of understanding of the past. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » The Boer War (1899-1902) looms in retrospect as Britain's Vietnam: a limited engagement that would "be over by Christmas," it turned into the longest, the bloodiest, "and the most humiliating war for Britain between 1815 and 1914." Powerful Britain could take no comfort, moreover, from its terminus, for even if the Boer guerrillas "lost the war, they won the peace." Thomas Pakenham, one of the auspiciously prolific Longfords (he is the brother of Antonia Fraser, above), has now given this epochal contest its first full-length treatment in nearly 70 years. In the course of his long narrative, he skillfully maps out the causes, the course and the aftereffects of the war. He examines the actions of the leading personalities on both sides, and carefully traces the transformation of the conflict into a war of attrition. Among the book's many strengths are Pakenham's use of unpublished and even some previously unconsulted sources (including some 52 veterans whom he interviewed); his vivid descriptions of military engagements and his attention to ways and means, from the "smokeless, long-range, high velocity, small-bore magazine bullet" to "the Boers' secret weapon, the spade"; and, perhaps most notably, his focus on the "invisible" black majority, which suffered at the hands of both sides during the war and saw its political rights sold out at the peace. Pakenham also offers a number of key reinterpretations. He regards High Commissioner Alfred Milner as the single individual most responsible for starting the war, and moreover asserts - "contrary to the accepted view of later historians" - that such Rand millionaires as Alfred Bett and Julius Wernher were his accomplices. He is less than usually harsh, however, toward British general Buller, damned for his unsuccessful tactics early in the war. Anticipating a future conflict in South Africa, he observes finally that "black nationalism" will probably "match Afrikaner nationalism in stamina and perhaps outmatch it in bitterness." An intelligent, vigorous, firmly grounded presentation - and, self-evidently, the new standard work. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Thomas Pakenham

Thomas Pakenham is the author of The Mountains of Rasselas, The Year of Liberty, The Scramble for Africa, Meetings with Remarkable Trees and Remarkable Trees of the World. He divides his time between London and Ireland. He is married to the writer Valerie Pakenham and they have four children.

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