Boer War

   The Boers were European settlers of the land now called the Republic of South Africa. They fought for, and lost, some of their land in the Boer War, which was fought from 1899 to 1902.

   Dutch settlers first reached the southern tip of Africa in 1652. Protestant religious refugees called Huguenots arrived from France to join the Dutch in 1688. These and other settlers, called Boers (the Dutch word for "farmers"), claimed more and more farmland during the next 100 years. In 1835, they began to move north, where they established the areas called the Orange Free State, Transvaal, and Natal as the Boer republic.

   Diamonds were discovered in the Orange Free State in 1867. Fortune hunters came from all over the world, and the British seized the Transvaal in 1877, after gold was discovered there. But a two-year war there brought Boer independence in 1881. Miners struck gold at Witwatersrand five years later. Brit­ish Uitlanders (foreigners) began coming into the country again. They settled down, but were not allowed by the Boer government to vote.

   "Jameson's raiders," a group of British Uitlanders, tried to take over Johannesburg, the capital of Transvaal, in 1895. They failed, but Brit­ish troops were gathering along the Transvaal border in support of the British settlers. Transvaal and the Orange Free State declared war on Great Britain.

   The Boers had about 60,000 men, who were fine horsemen and good shots with their guns. The British had old-fashioned weapons and not enough horses. They suffered many defeats before they defeated the Boers. A peace treaty was signed at Pretoria, on May 31, 1902. Trans­vaal and the Orange Free State be-came British colonies. The Boer leaders were not punished for their part in the war. Several of them held posts in the colonial governments. Four years later the two col­onies were granted independent government, which led to the formation of the Union of South Africa.