Book Review: An Imperfect Occupation: Enduring the South African War


by John Boje

Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015. Pp. x, 246. Illus., map, tables, notes, biblio., index. $40.00. ISBN: 0252039564

South Africans Under British Occupation

Boje (University of Pretoria), takes a look at the impact of the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) and the effects of British wartime occupation policies on the people of the Winburg district of the Orange Free State. Although the problems the occupation imposed on the Boers are primary in his treatment, unlike most earlier works, Boje also looks at its effects on British and other Europeans resident in the district, and on the usually overlooked Africans, though noting that documentary materials relating to the indigenous people in the war are sparse.

Of Boer descent himself, Boje draws on family history as well as memoirs, letters, and diaries of many others, as well as newspaper articles, official documents, and other materials to paint a view of the war that is more nuanced than is customary. So while we get a look at Boer resistance to occupation during the occupation, he also looks at Boers who were pro-British, and those who just wanted to be left alone. Unlike many pro-Boer accounts, Boje points out that while ill-conceived and often harsh British occupation policies caused suffering among many of the Boers, so too did the efforts by some die-hard Boers to continue resistance long after any hope of victory had passed. There are some surprises in Boje’s work, most notably coverage of the role of black combatants in the war, a very neglected topic.

A volume in the Illinois series “History of Military Occupation”, An Imperfect Occupation will be of particular value to those with an interest in South African history, the Boer War, and the history of occupation.

Note: An Imperfect Occupation is also available as an e-book, $9.95, ISBN 978-0-252-09765-2.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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