. 2
( 7)


only at the time of the Boer War. New Imperialism got along ¬ne
without mass support through most of the latter third of the nineteenth
century because the Scramble for Africa was more a phenomenon of
international capital than a governmental policy of military acquisition.
Large-scale public support for British imperialism became necessary
° Gender, race, and the writing of empire
only when the British embarked on a colonial war, fought largely with
volunteers, against a white nation.
The concept of public opinion is the missing piece in cultural studies
analysis of the public (and private) discourse of Victorian imperialism. A
concept understood by press, politicians, and publics alike throughout
the nineteenth century, public opinion is nevertheless impossible to pin
down. Since the ¬rst Gallup polls in the United States and Britain in the
±°s, public opinion has come to mean something very speci¬c and,
most importantly, quanti¬able (Worcester British Public Opinion ). But
the Victorians operated under a notion of public opinion that was
perhaps equally speci¬c but not at all quanti¬able. That is, public
opinion was a matter of concern on public policy issues, but the public
whose opinion mattered was not a random or representative cross-
section of the population. Those whose opinions a¬ected policy were
upper-middle-class and higher, and almost certainly male. To gauge
public opinion one read the letters in The Times. By the time of the Boer
War, the concept of public opinion was shifting, as class dynamics
changed, as the franchise was extended, and as access to education
expanded. The most concrete example of the shift in ways of accounting
for public opinion is the ¬‚owering of, and the attention paid to, the
popular press. Historians and literary critics have tended to employ the
concept of public opinion uncritically in analysis of the nineteenth
century, seeing public opinion as the political views of what communi-
cations theorists call agenda-setters, the people whose class standing and
in¬‚uence means that they have the ear of the policymakers. If the
concept of public opinion is to work as an analytical tool for understand-
ing late-Victorian imperialism, then we must consider whose voices
were heard in public debate by the time of the Boer War, who set the
agendas on which the ˜˜public™™ held opinions, and which public dis-
course was being aimed at which segment of the public. This volume
agrees with John MacKenzie that there was an ˜˜imperial world view™™
established by an extensive network of cultural propaganda by ±°°, but
it asserts the importance of looking at particular components of that
world view individually. In examining the supporting ideologies that
functioned within imperialism at the end of the nineteenth century “
chivalry, paternalistic models of race relations, evolutionary thinking “
the chapters that follow demonstrate that while imperialism itself was
seldom seen by Victorian elites as debatable, issues that were important
to the maintenance of consensus on imperialism were very much con-
tested. Newspapers, periodicals, and propaganda of the Boer War
The war at home
addressed varying publics, only some of whose opinions counted in the
press and politicians™ notion of public opinion. By focusing on the
publics addressed in di¬erent situations and the assumptions being
made about those publics, we arrive at a clearer understanding of
imperial ideology™s dependence on hierarchies of race, sex, and class
and of the ways in which, hand in hand, the New Imperialism and the
New Journalism brought Britain into the twentieth century.
° 

The concentration camps controversy and the press

Still reeling from the series of setbacks in December ± that came to
be known as Black Week, the British army by March ±°° had settled on
a new strategy to try to ¬nish the war in South Africa “ the war that
General Lord Roberts had said would be over by Christmas. Searching
for a way to cut o¬ Boer ¬ghters in the ¬eld from food and supplies, the
British, under the command of Lord Roberts, began to burn the homes
and crops of the South African men who were away on commando
duty. The farm-burning policy became systematic under Lord Kitchen-
er, who succeeded Roberts as commander-in-chief of the British forces
in South Africa in December ±°°. Many African settlements and crops
in the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (the Trans-
vaal) were added to the list of what was to be ˜˜cleared,™™ and Kitchener
was left with the problem of what to do with all the noncombatants thus
In September of that year General John Maxwell had formed camps
for surrendered burghers in Bloemfontein and Pretoria, and on °
December ±°° Kitchener o¬cially proclaimed a South Africa-wide
policy whereby surrendered burghers and their families would be
housed and fed in such camps, courtesy of the British military. Separate
camps were established for whites and for blacks, and because the
British military was unwilling to treat women and children in stationary
camps di¬erently from soldiers in temporary camps, problems soon
arose with food, fuel, and general health conditions.
In June ±°± a report by Emily Hobhouse, who had been distributing
clothing and blankets in the camps for the London-based, anti-war,
South African Women and Children™s Distress Fund, revealed to Brit-
ain the unhealthy conditions in the camps. The British government™s
own ¬gures for the mortality rates in the camps in late summer and fall
that year made the conditions in the camps a national scandal. After
Hobhouse™s report was published, the government rebutted with its own
The concentration camps controversy and the press
˜˜Ladies Commission,™™ led by su¬ragist Millicent Fawcett, to investigate
the camps and initiate reforms. By the end of the war ,°°° whites,
mostly women and children, died in the Boer camps “ more than twice
the number of men on both sides killed in the ¬ghting of the war (Spies
Methods µ). An additional ±,°°° Africans died, although there were
many fewer camps for them. The rates at which Africans died were even
higher than the death rates in the white camps; the African camps did
not bene¬t from publicity (Warwick Black People ±µ).
The camps controversy was the biggest scandal of the South African
War, and newspapers on di¬erent sides of the war issue handled it very
di¬erently, re¬‚ecting not only the political di¬erences among the papers
but also the changes the New Journalism was causing in the way
war made news. The venerable Times, supporter of the Conservative-
Unionist government headed by Lord Salisbury, backed War O¬ce
policy in South Africa and trusted the good intentions of the Army,
refusing to believe in anyone™s culpability. The upstart Daily Mail of
Alfred Harmsworth took what it saw as a populist line, holding that
whatever the British did for the women and children in the camps was
more than they deserved. The Daily News changed horses midstream to
oppose the government on the camps issue, while the Manchester Guardian
went with Liberal party leader Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and its
editor, C. P. Scott, M.P., in coming out against what Campbell-Banner-
man called ˜˜methods of barbarism™™ in South Africa. This chapter
examines the development of the concentration camps scandal in the
daily press and the relationship between press coverage of the scandal
and government policy on the camps. The camps controversy is a good
case study through which to examine both the role of the daily press in
imperialism during the Boer War and the place of gender and race
ideology within the imperialism of the war. The publics that were
created by the press before Mafeking Night were the same publics that
reacted to the news of the death rates in the camps. But the War O¬ce
that had colluded in the creation of the jingo frenzy of Mafeking Night
had not counted on the same sentimentalism and belief in British
traditions and values working against government policy when it came
to a very di¬erent kind of war news.
As we have seen, J. A. Hobson was the ¬rst important ¬gure in a long
line of theorists to attribute to the press a good deal of power in shaping
the conditions necessary for imperialism, including home-front support.
Hobson™s experience as a correspondent for the Manchester Guardian
during the Anglo-Boer War helped to convince him of the importance
 Gender, race, and the writing of empire
for imperialism of ideological factors such as the press. Most histories of
the press show newspapers as either shaping or re¬‚ecting ˜˜public
opinion™™ and see the concept as did the American social critic Walter
Lippman, who, writing in ±µ, called public opinion the ˜˜manufacture
of consent,™™ managed by governments and newspaper proprietors (Pub-
lic Opinion ±µ). Stephen Koss argued that the press of the late nineteenth
century ˜˜did not so much lead as follow public opinion . . . Once chie¬‚y
used to communicate ministerial views to the nation (as it was then
narrowly de¬ned), newspapers now began to function less predictably as
the agencies through which mass enthusiasms were conveyed to Parlia-
mentary leaders™™ (Rise and Fall ±µ). But what constitutes a ˜˜mass
enthusiasm™™? Who are these nebulous masses that through the press
were a¬ecting policymakers in parliament? Using the detailed examin-
ations of the workings of the press that journalism historians such as
Koss, Lucy Brown, and Alan Lee provide, we can examine the camps
controversy as a case study of the management of a publicly sanctioned
imperial enthusiasm in the late nineteenth century. Although individual
papers challenged the government™s line on the war itself, none chal-
lenged the underlying ideologies of race and gender that played key
roles in sustaining the policy of imperialism.
One problem with works that examine such ˜˜mass enthusiasms™™ as
imperialism has been press historians™ limiting of their analysis to the
concept of public opinion. It is possible to assess the role of the press in
imperialism only if we recognize the existence of more than one kind of
public opinion. Most assessments of the press and public opinion have
been concerned with a paper™s in¬‚uence on the electorate when it comes
to public policy issues: public opinion manifested itself in mass meetings,
letters to the editor, arguments on street corners. But public opinion on
imperialism was being formed in the age of the New Journalism. We
cannot talk simply about the press and public opinion during the Boer
War, or we run the risk of creating monolithic structures: if not the press,
then at least the party press, or the individual newspaper as a consistent
factor in the creation of public opinion. Nevertheless, we cannot refuse
entirely the notion of a public opinion, not least because newspaper
editors, proprietors, and policymakers believed in it. These public
¬gures operated on the assumption that newspapers could in¬‚uence the
course of events by stirring to action either the political elite or the
electorate en masse.
Imperialism in the Boer War was moving from being an ideological
issue, situated in the realm of Antonio Gramsci™s ˜˜common sense,™™ to
The concentration camps controversy and the press
being a matter of public opinion, political controversy open to debate.
As information on the camps surfaced in Britain, members of the British
policymaking elite and of the Great British Public began to become
aware of what were beginning to seem like contradictions in British
imperialism. It slowly became apparent that a political machine, with its
own aims, was driving Britain™s imperial e¬orts. This new awareness of
the machinations behind British imperialism, in which the press cover-
age of the concentration camps played a great part, helped to initiate
what would become the twentieth-century reevaluation of Britain™s
imperial mission.
If we look at the role of the press in the ideology of imperialism, both
as a producer of ideology and as a subscriber to it, we can see contradic-
tions within the institution of the press and within individual news-
papers, contradictions that re¬‚ect rifts in British society during this
period, the heart of the ˜˜crisis of liberalism.™™ Stuart Hall and Bill
Schwartz point to the crisis of liberalism as a far-reaching one not simply
of the relationship between the state and civil society, but ˜˜rather of the
very ideas of state and civil society, of public and private.™™ They point
out that the ±°“±° period marked a change in ˜˜the very means and
modes by which hegemony is exerted in the metropolitan nations™™ (Hall
and Schwartz ˜˜Crisis in Liberalism™™ ). This change appears clearly in
the shift in the British government™s presentation of imperialism, which
changed from a hegemonic concept intrinsic to British self-de¬nition to
a political controversy on which it was possible to hold opposing views.
Indeed, in Gramsci™s Prison Notebooks, written during the ±°s, he
formulates the conception of hegemony in relation to the period of the
late nineteenth century. The notion of hegemony as a cultural as well as
political struggle, constantly negotiated between the hegemonic group
and the dominated, allows us to account for the contradictions we see in
the press of the Boer War. While many ideas about, for example, gender
relations were still hegemonic, such ideas as the right of the British to
control Africa seem to have moved from the sphere of ideological
hegemony into the openly negotiable realm of public opinion.
The Boer War was a natural locus for these ideological shifts because
of its singularity among nineteenth-century British imperial wars. The
war was fought for control of a non-European land, against a European
people. But the Boers were not simply European. They had been in
South Africa for generations, having displaced black African peoples in
their treks northward from the Cape of Good Hope. The war in South
Africa was a war between a European colonial power and a European-
 Gender, race, and the writing of empire
descended people for control of land that had originally been inhabited
by African peoples. In the camps crisis, the British had to deal with
thousands of white women and children in a land that the British army
was fast making uninhabitable. And, because Africans were part of the
Afrikaner economy, lived and worked on Boer farms, the British were
forced to create policy to accommodate thousands of displaced Africans
as well. Never had the British War O¬ce or Colonial O¬ce had to
address the needs of such a large civilian population, with the racial,
gender, and even class issues that overlay the obvious problems of
shelter and food.

  °    ® ¤   ® ® ©®  °
Nineteenth-century newspaper historians have examined the press as an
agency of social control (Curran ˜˜Press as an Agency™™), have looked at
its structures and ownership (Williams ˜˜Press and Popular Culture™™)
and its relationship to political parties (Koss Rise and Fall). However, the
rather straightforward relationships between political parties and the
press found by newspaper historians such as Koss, Brown, and Lee are
not so straightforward on the issue of the concentration camps. Rather
than being a party political question, the camps controversy touched on
factors as diverse as beliefs about the social position of women, about
race, and about class as well as economic, military, and political factors.
The role of newspapers in the creation and questioning of public
support for imperialism involves not only the in¬‚uence of the press on
parliament and parliament on the press but also the more mundane
details of editing and sub-editing, of layout and headline-writing, of
foreign correspondents with minds of their own, wire services that were
not always reliable, placard-writers, gossips in governmental and society
circles, friends of reporters, and, especially, readers. This chapter, then,
looks at the presentation of information about the camps as much as at
the information itself.
Newspapers were the central source of information about the Boer
War, for the British public in general and for members of parliament not
privy to the daily cables from South Africa received at the War O¬ce.
Members of parliament often based questions in the House of Com-
mons on information gleaned from the morning papers.¹ Proprietors
and editors of newspapers certainly believed that they were in the
business of in¬‚uencing public opinion, although historians of the press
have found few ways of verifying that newspapers™ editorial policies
The concentration camps controversy and the press
actually had any e¬ect on the opinions of their readers (Boyce ˜˜Fourth
Estate™™). To complicate matters further, circulation ¬gures for nine-
teenth and early twentieth-century newspapers are either unreliable or
nonexistent. But daily newspapers were widely bought and read by
turn-of-the-century Britons, and political decision-makers, as we shall
see, considered newspapers as both re¬‚ectors and shapers of public
opinion. Londoners bought a particular newspaper for many di¬erent
reasons that might have had little to do with that paper™s editorial policy
about the Boer War. But when a paper stepped very far out of line from
what its readers were willing to accept, trouble resulted. The Manchester
Guardian, for example, was an essential purchase for businessmen in
London and Manchester who could get the cotton prices from America
nowhere else. But the speculators™ disgust with the paper™s anti-war
stance was apparently well known on the commuter trains, as business-
men daily turned to the cotton prices, then ostentatiously crumpled up
their Guardians and tossed them on the ¬‚oor of their compartments.²
In the debate about the concentration camps, both sides knew how
important newspapers were. After portions of Emily Hobhouse™s report
were published in the Manchester Guardian and the government began to
realize the extent of the problems in the camps, camp administration was
turned over to the civil authorities. The military gladly washed its hands
of the mess. While initially both War Secretary St. John Brodrick and
Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain had attributed all anxiety in
Britain about the camps to ˜˜pro-Boerism,™™ they soon had to face the fact
that the camps were becoming a bipartisan issue. Immediately after news
of Emily Hobhouse™s report appeared in London newspapers in June
±°±, Mary Ward wrote to Lord Milner, in London on a brief return from
South Africa, with a wish to get involved in helping to improve the camps.
Milner replied that he ˜˜entirely sympathise[d] with the wish to show that
sympathy with women and children “ especially children “ (for some of
the women are among the biggest ¬rebrands) is not con¬ned to sympath-
isers with the enemy.™™³ He told Mrs. Ward to get in touch with Mrs.
Alfred Lyttleton and the other women of the Victoria League, ˜˜which is
Imperialist in the broadest lines.™™ Milner sent a copy of his reply to
Chamberlain, explaining that ˜˜Mrs. Humphry Ward has written to me
saying that there is a general desire to start a strong neutral Committee “
not pro-Boer “ to relieve the su¬erings of people in the Refugee Camps.™™⁴
Even though pro-government newspapers did not give much space to the
Hobhouse report, or tried to refute it, readers who supported the war
were nevertheless concerned about the camps.µ
 Gender, race, and the writing of empire
Chamberlain worried about opposition to the concentration camps,
and, as the one in London, he had to take the heat Milner didn™t feel.
The Colonial Secretary wrote to Milner in November ±°± that he
needed more information on the camps. ˜˜I do not want to add more to
your labours,™™ Chamberlain wrote, ˜˜but it is of the greatest importance
that you should write fully and frequently, and, if possible, in a form in
which the information conveyed can be published.™™ The Colonial
Secretary complained about waiting for a reply from Milner to a
telegram, saying, ˜˜I am without even the slightest information of what is
going on beyond what I gather from newspaper correspondence. I
daresay that this contains everything of importance, but it does not
satisfy the public for the Government to say ˜We can tell you nothing
more than you have learned from the newspaper reports.™ ™™⁶ Although
Chamberlain believed the newspaper reports contained ˜˜everything of
importance,™™ he was concerned that he appear to know more than the
newspapers. Newspapers could and did supply essential information to
government ministers, but the public wanted its government to know
more than the newspapers did. Chamberlain believed that the public
wanted the government to supply information from the spot, not me-
diated through the newspapers.
When he wanted more information from Milner with which to allay
public fears about the camps, on µ November Chamberlain wrote to

The mortality in the Concentration Camps has undoubtedly roused deep
feeling among people who cannot be classed with the pro-Boers. It does not
seem to me altogether a complete answer to say that the aggregation of people
who are specially liable to infectious disease has produced a state of things
which is inevitable. The natural remark is ˜˜Why then did you bring them
together.™™ If we say that it was because they would have starved on the veldt we
enter on a hypothetical consideration and cannot of course prove that in the
alternative the mortality would have been as large. Personally, as you know, I
have always doubted the wisdom or necessity of this concentration, but, be that
as it may, we ought to give some evidence of exceptional measures when the
concentration has the results shown by recent statistics. If, immediately on the
outbreak of disease, we could have moved the camps either to the ports in Cape
Colony or to some other selected situation we should have had something to say
for ourselves, but we seem to have accepted the mortality as natural and many
good people are distressed at our apparent indi¬erence.·

The letter displays the central concern of Chamberlain as the man in
London who was most directly responsible for the camps. He was most
The concentration camps controversy and the press
concerned that he be able to ˜˜give some evidence™™ of ˜˜exceptional
measures™™ taken, that the government should have ˜˜something to say
for ourselves™™ about alleviating conditions in the camps. He worries
about how the government ˜˜seems,™™ at its ˜˜apparent™™ indi¬erence. Of
course as Colonial Secretary during a period of public scandal about the
camps, he would want to avoid blame. In the House he was obliged to
defend the policy of the camps while he privately protested to Milner
that he had ˜˜always doubted the wisdom or necessity™™ of the policy. But
he did not seek changes in the policy as the death-rates rose “ he sought
information that he could present to the public to appease the ˜˜good
people™™ who were joining with the pro-Boers to oppose the camps.
It was when these ˜˜good people™™ began to come out against the war
that Chamberlain and Milner began to get nervous about the ˜˜wobble™™
in public opinion that Milner had feared all along.⁸ Milner™s immediate
reaction was to defend not the government policy on the camps but his
own actions as civil, not military authority. He wrote to Chamberlain in
early December that:

the black spot “ the very black spot, “ in the picture is the frightful mortality in
the Concentration Camps. I entirely agree with you in thinking, that, while a
hundred explanations may be o¬ered and a hundred excuses made, they do not
really amount to an adequate defence. I should much prefer to say at once, as
far as the Civil authorities are concerned, that we were suddenly confronted
with a problem not of our making, with which it was beyond our power to
grapple. And no doubt its vastness was not realised soon enough. It was not till
six weeks or two months ago that it dawned on me personally (I cannot speak
for others) that the enormous mortality was not merely incidental to the ¬rst
formation of the camps and the sudden inrush of thousands of people already
sick and starving, but was going to continue. The fact that it continues, is no
doubt condemnation of the Camp system. The whole thing, I think now, has
been a mistake. At the same time a sudden reversal of policy would only make
matters worse. At the present moment certainly everything we know of is being
done, both to improve the camps and to reduce the numbers in them. I believe
we shall mitigate the evil, but we shall never get rid of it.
While I say all this, however, I do not think that the mortality would have
been less if the people had been left in the veld. I do not think it would. But our
great error has been in taking a course which made us responsible, for mischiefs,
which ought to have rested on the shoulders of the enemy. But it is easy to be
wise after the event. The state of a¬airs, which led to the formation of the camps,
was wholly novel and of unusual di¬culty, and I believe no General in the world
would not have felt compelled to deal with it in some drastic manner.
If we can get over the Concentration Camps, none of the other attacks upon
us alarm me in the least.⁹
° Gender, race, and the writing of empire
This extended analysis of the problems with the camps is entirely
motivated by worry about the way the camps were being discussed in
England. Once the Guardian published Hobhouse™s information, the
camps became news in all sorts of newspapers. Most of the quality press
supported British policy on the camps; almost all the outrage about the
camps appeared in ˜˜pro-Boer™™ journals. Yet Milner, Chamberlain, and
Brodrick clearly worried about public opinion having turned against
them on the camps. The ˜˜black spot™™ of the camps was a genuine
problem for Milner. Despite the popular press™s denial of British respon-
sibility for the Boer camp deaths, and despite almost universal press
support for the camps policy, ˜˜public opinion™™ was perceived as having
turned against the government. And the government responded with
action “ both to ameliorate conditions in the camps and to change
public opinion. Milner™s concern was at being perceived as responsible
for the deaths that had become such a big news story. The way to shift
that perception was through the press, both the pro-war and the pro-
Boer press, and with the appointment of the Ladies Commission by
Brodrick, the process had been set in motion already.
The opponents of the camps, too, worked through the newspapers to
make themselves heard by the government who made the decisions
about the camps. The correspondence of the members of the South
African Women and Children™s Distress Fund, the committee under
whose auspices Emily Hobhouse traveled to South Africa, reveals the
members™ keen awareness of the strategies behind the publication of
their appeals and of the information about their most notorious mem-
ber, Emily Hobhouse.
During the row over her report, Hobhouse herself learned the ins and
outs of the publication of information in newspapers. When she saw
Brodrick about the camps and won certain concessions from him
regarding their operations, Hobhouse was told by Lord Ripon, of her
committee, not to go straight to the newspapers with the information
about the meeting. When she did reveal the information to the press, she
wrote to Ripon:
May I send a line to say that the publication in yesterday™s papers of Mr.
Brodrick™s letter to me and my reply was not done directly contrary to your advice
without reason. But it was because I saw Mr. Brodrick on Thursday and he was
very very angry with me for not having published it instantly. Of course I promised
to do so at once only too gladly, but he was not much appeased because he said
the mischief was done it was too late. This plainly shewed that the concessions
were entirely made for the public and not at all for the Boer women.
The concentration camps controversy and the press
He further told me the Government refused to let me go out again, but when
I said I should feel obligated to make that refusal public he turned as white as a
sheet and said he would send me a letter in writing.¹°
When Brodrick™s letter had not arrived by µ July, Ripon wrote to
Hobhouse™s friend and fellow committee-member Kate Courtney to
express his concern about how they should proceed. He worried about
the advisability of Dr. Richard Spence Watson, of their committee,
publishing a letter in the newspapers in which he pretended not to know
that Emily Hobhouse had been refused permission to return to the
camps. Ripon was shrewd about the timing and strategies that would
best use the newspapers to the committee™s advantage:
I would recommend that Miss Hobhouse should give Mr. Brodrick a day or two
longer to send her his promised precis of his grounds for refusing and if he
delays to do so she might then I think allow a paragraph to appear in the
newspapers to the e¬ect that she had o¬ered the Govt to go out again, but
without saying, unless she had heard from Mr. Brodrick, that she had been
refused. Such a paragraph would a¬ord ground for a question in the House of
Commons, and it would be important to get it asked by some not extreme
People of the social standing of Ripon and Kate Courtney (sister of
Beatrice Webb and wife of Leonard Courtney, M.P.) could rely on
getting what they wanted printed in newspapers in London, at least in
the form of letters. The newspapers in question were, of course, The
Times, the paper of record, and the Manchester Guardian, the leading
anti-war journal. When Brodrick, Ripon, or Hobhouse spoke of ˜˜the
newspapers,™™ they were not referring to the jingo halfpennies such as
the Daily Mail. On an issue such as the camps, the newspapers taken
seriously as indices and shapers of public opinion were still the qualities.
The Daily Mail™s chief South African War correspondent was Edgar
Wallace. Later, in his ¬ction, Wallace recognized the place of the
newspaper in political debates and the uses of the newspaper for politi-
cians and lobbyists alike. The work that brought him fame as a novelist,
The Four Just Men, published shortly after he left the Daily Mail in ±°,
centers on a government minister, who takes the step of ˜˜making . . .
public through the press™™ (±·) the threats to his life over his support of a
bill. Wallace emphasizes the role of the press, especially the tabloid Daily
Megaphone, in publicizing for the public good the threats and the progress
of the case. The government, police on two continents, and the crimi-
nals react to the stories in the Megaphone. And, of course, the public acts
on what it reads in the newspapers “ the threats become the main topic
 Gender, race, and the writing of empire
of conversation in London, and people begin to cheer the threatened
minister when he walks in public.
But newspapers, according to this newspaperman and novelist, not
only inform and in¬‚uence readers. They also re¬‚ect the views of those
˜˜What are the people thinking about?™™ asked the Commissioner.
˜˜You™ve seen the papers?™™
Mr. Commissioner™s shrug was uncomplimentary to British journalism.
˜˜The papers! Who in Heaven™s name is going to take the slightest notice of
what is in the papers?™™ he said petulantly.
˜˜I am, for one,™™ replied the calm detective; ˜˜newspapers are more often than
not led by the public; and it seems to me the idea of running a newspaper in a
nutshell is to write so that the public will say, ˜That™s smart “ it™s what I™ve said
all along.™™™ (Four Just Men )
Wallace, the star correspondent of the war by virtue of some key scoops,
had come of age under Harmsworth, who worked the above formula
into a circulation of nearly a million a day during the war.

° - · 
The granddaddy of London dailies, The Times, and Edgar Wallace™s
employer, the Daily Mail, were far apart in their approaches to journal-
ism, but similar in their rallying behind Britain in its war with the South
African republics. The Daily Mail, full of crime news, tales of tragedy,
and scandal, nevertheless prided itself on its foreign news, using the
same wire services and War O¬ce releases as TheTimes did in its pages of
more sober, traditional reporting, and hiring some of the best foreign
correspondents available (Palmer ˜˜British Press and International
News™™ ±·). Despite claims of non-partisanship, both papers supported
the Salisbury government, though the Daily Mail™s conservatism was
populist and The Times™s elitist (Koss Rise and Fall °, ·°). This resulted
in the Daily Mail supporting the war the government had led the country
into and The Times supporting the government that had drawn the
country into war.
When it came to editorial stands on the war these two pro-war papers
were very di¬erent, as was re¬‚ected in the nature and amount of
coverage they devoted to the concentration camps. The Times, as had
been the tradition of London newspapers, took its cues from parliament.
˜˜Momentous events might inconveniently occur in distant places, but
their impact was fully registered only when they were debated in
The concentration camps controversy and the press
Parliament and appraised by the leader-writers of the London press,™™
writes Stephen Koss (Rise and Fall ). But did the leader-writers of the
London press ever bother to appraise those distant, momentous events
until parliament had pointed them out? First, let us examine how the
papers treated information that did come from parliament.
Like The Times, the young Daily Mail took note of what went on at
Westminster. But the Daily Mail was the most vigorous proponent of a
new trend in British journalism at the end of Victoria™s reign “ the move
away from column after column of verbatim reporting of parliamentary
debates and speeches. While The Times might present its reader more
than a full page of eye-straining, small-print transcription from debates,
the Daily Mail reader would rarely see more than a column of parliamen-
tary reporting, and even that was seldom verbatim reports of speeches.
The di¬erence meant that while The Times supported the government,
The Times reader would also have learned what the opposition had to say.
Not so the reader of the Daily Mail. Because the paper did not transcribe
the debates, it had more freedom to summarize, to indicate which side it
felt had won, or to ignore the debates entirely. So the Daily Mail™s style of
journalism meant that it could come out in favor of the war and against
the British anti-war movement much more strongly than The Times
could, simply by virtue of what it left o¬ its news pages.
An example of this pattern comes from the ± February ±°± parlia-
mentary coverage of both newspapers. The Times™s coverage of that day
noted David Lloyd George™s complaint about the fact that, in the Boer
concentration camps, the families of burghers still on commando were
receiving reduced rations until the ¬ghters surrendered. Lloyd George
said that ˜˜the remnant of the Boer army who were sacri¬cing everything
for their idea of independence were to be tortured by the spectacle of
their starving children into betraying their cause™™ if the reduced-rations
policy were continued. Secretary of State for War St. John Brodrick
denied the accusation (in fact, reduced rations were standard policy in
the camps at the time [Pakenham Boer War µ°µ]), blasting Lloyd George
for ˜˜trying to establish a charge for which he has not a particle of
evidence.™™ Lloyd George defended himself, citing his source: ˜˜a tele-
gram from Pretoria,™™ the Reuter news agency report on the subject,
which had appeared in The Times and the Daily Mail a month before.¹²
˜˜No telegram could come from Pretoria that was objected to by the
military censor there,™™ noted Lloyd George. ˜˜Did the right honourable
gentleman mean to say that the telegram with the stamp of the military
censor on it was not a particle of evidence?™™ he asked Brodrick.¹³
 Gender, race, and the writing of empire
The Daily Mail reported nothing at all about Lloyd George™s com-
plaint. The sole mention it gave the exchange was: ˜˜After Mr. Brodrick
denied that there was necessarily any truth in a telegram because it
passed the censor . . . Mr. Lloyd George . . . continu[ed] his tirade.™™¹⁴
No mention of the subject of the tirade. The Daily Mail reader never
learned from that newspaper about the reduced-rations debate. The
question of reduced rations was a touchy one, and a jingo newspaper
bent on portraying as just the war and all its tactics could not risk the
inconsistency of appearing to sympathize with Boer women and
children. Like all other British newsapers of the turn of the century, the
Daily Mail strove for consistency in its editorial stances on major issues,
especially the war. Where the Harmsworth paper was innovative was
in extending that editorial consistency beyond the leader and into the
news pages. If a piece of news such as the reduced-rations debate might
supply ammunition to the anti-war side, then that news did not appear
in the Daily Mail.

°  -  
Until January ±°± no major London daily challenged The Times, the
Daily Mail, and the other pro-government or pro-war newspapers.
Although the halfpenny radical Morning Leader maintained an anti-war
stance throughout the con¬‚ict, it was not of su¬cient stature in the
London press to worry anyone. The Manchester Guardian was in¬‚uential
but was nevertheless primarily a provincial paper. London Liberals and
radicals against the war grew increasingly frustrated at having their say
limited to the pages of J. A. Spender™s weekly Speaker, and in late ±°° a
group of ˜˜pro-Boers,™™ headed by David Lloyd George, decided that the
capital city needed a strong Liberal voice against the war. Starting a new
daily proved too expensive, so the coalition, funded largely by chocolate
manufacturer George Cadbury, reclaimed the Daily News from Liberal
imperialism. They bought the paper in January ±°±, telling pro-war
editor E. T. Cook on a Tuesday ˜˜that he would go on the following
Thursday,™™ according to Herbert Gladstone.¹µ
The Daily News, its masthead boasting the ˜˜largest circulation of any
Liberal newspaper in the world,™™ had been solid behind Gladstonian
principles before the ± hiring of Cook (Koss Rise and Fall ), who
rallied the paper behind imperialism. With his replacement by the
Radical journalist A. G. Gardiner and the addition of H. W. Massin-
gham and Herbert Lehmann as parliamentary correspondent and
The concentration camps controversy and the press
leader-writer, respectively, the pro-Boers had built a paper that looked a
good bet to achieve what Massingham explained to C. P. Scott was their
goal: ˜˜to put Liberalism here on the basis which the Guardian has so
¬rmly established in Manchester™™ (quoted in Koss Rise and Fall ). In
the spirit of Cadbury™s Quakerism, the paper became the major London
opponent of the concentration camps. The pro-Boer stance did not pay
o¬ for the investors. Harold Spender of the Manchester Guardian told the
story of George Cadbury revealing after the war that the early months of
his chairmanship of the board of directors of the Daily News cost him
£±°,°°°. When Spender reminded Cadbury that the paper had prob-
ably ˜˜saved ten thousand lives™™ by reporting on the conditions in the
concentration camps, ˜˜his face brightened with a beautiful smile. ˜Ah! in
that case,™ he said, ˜I will willingly bear the loss™™™ (quoted in Koss Rise and
Fall °°).
But despite Massingham™s assertions that the Daily News would aim to
serve the function of the Manchester Guardian, the two papers varied in
their approaches to the concentration camps, the most important hu-
manitarian issue of the war. The Daily News, considered a bit hysterical
by most other dailies, publicized the camps from the earliest days of
Emily Hobhouse™s visits to them in ±°±, with many letters to the editor
from prominent pro-Boers condemning the camps. The Manchester
Guardian, however, while including special wire service reports on the
deportation of women and children earlier than any other paper “ in the
fall of ±°° “ was later than the Daily News with protests against the camp
Even before the pro-Boer takeover, the Daily News had editorialized in
support of the e¬orts of the South African Women and Children™s
Distress Fund when it announced the fund™s formation in the letters
columns of  December.¹⁶ The paper constantly carried news agency
reports of British troops bringing in women and children to the camps,
the same telegrams that appeared in The Times. But as soon as the new
management took over, the Daily News published a letter from the South
Africa Conciliation Committee (± January), drawing attention to the
Reuter™s telegram that had appeared in The Times on ±· January and
that would come to cause the ¬rst big ¬‚ap over the camps in the House
of Commons “ the half-rations telegram that had revealed the policy of
reduced food for families of men on commando.¹· In addition, the Daily
News published long letters from the South African Women and
Children™s Distress Fund, reporting on Emily Hobhouse™s progress
through the camps.¹⁸
 Gender, race, and the writing of empire
News reporting from South Africa also varied among these four
newspapers. The ¬rst news of the camps in The Times was its report at
the end of December of Kitchener™s ° December proclamation that
surrendered burghers would now ˜˜be allowed to live with their families
in Government laagers [camps] until such time as the guerrilla war now
being carried on will admit of their returning safely to their homes.™™¹⁹
Although the camps were already being loaded with women and
children whose farms had been burned, and not only with the families of
surrendered burghers, the proclamation did not go any further (War-
wick Black People ±·“). Three days later The Times featured the ¬rst
mention that anyone was ¬nding fault with the camps, in an article on
˜˜The Alleged Ill-Treatment of Boer Women.™™ The article quoted a
letter from a Dutch clergyman, T. J. Ferreira, rebutting charges against
the British military regarding ˜˜the bad treatment exiles are receiving
from the military.™™ Ferreira said he visited the camp at Port Elizabeth
˜˜determined to ¬nd out the truth.™™ So he stayed to dinner. ˜˜The food
was excellent,™™ he declared, describing the meal from the roast beef to
the co¬ee. ˜˜The women and children are happy, have no complaint,
and are quite content to stay where they are until they can return to
their homes.™™²° Times articles would continue to deny bad conditions in
the camps even when the government reports about the death rates
were released, often, as with the Ferreira story, refuting speci¬c charges
that had never appeared in the paper: ˜˜As for the statement that women
go ragged and barefooted and had to bathe within sight of the military,
it is a shameful falsehood.™™²¹ The Times maintained a defensive posture
throughout the controversy about the camps; charges against the British
never appeared in the paper “ only refutations of them.
No one could have accused the Daily Mail of being defensive. Its early
news coverage of the camps from South Africa was scanty; it, too,
reported on Kitchener™s proclamation about the surrendered burghers
and their families, but it did not feature the refutations of charges
against the British that The Times ran. Its ¬rst leader-page notice of the
camps called for ˜˜Stern Methods of War™™ such as those employed by
the North in devastating parts of the South during the American Civil
War “ ˜˜reduction to poverty,™™ as practiced by Generals Sherman and
Sheridan. The Daily Mail advocated burning Boer farms and removing
civilians from the countryside. The American Civil War theme recurred
throughout the paper™s leaders about the war.²²
Daily Mail leader-writers in April ±°± called for the abolition of the
concentration camps as part of a British e¬ort at ˜˜War in Earnest.™™ The
The concentration camps controversy and the press
camps were not too harsh, but too humane and too expensive. ˜˜The
policy of feeding the wives and children of the burghers now in the ¬eld
against us has been tried and proved a failure,™™ said the leader. ˜˜It has
been misunderstood and regarded as one more sign that England is to
be played with. There is every objection to it on the score of economy
and common sense.™™²³ So it was not out of humanitarianism that the
Daily Mail opposed the camps, but out of ¬nancial concern. The leader
pointed out that Uitlander, ˜˜loyalist™™ refugees from the republics, who
¬‚ed their jobs at the gold mines at the outbreak of war, were ˜˜starving in
every South African port, while the Boer women are rioting in compara-
tive plenty.™™ Comparisons between the situations of the English refugees
and the Boers in camp were plentiful in both newspapers. It was a theme
especially popular with letter-writers.²⁴
The Manchester Guardian reported from early December about the
British army™s treatment of non-combatants, especially women in South
Africa. Throughout December its Cape Colony correspondent reported
on the situation of a group of Boer women and children from ˜˜Faures-
mith, Jagersfontein, and other southern portions of the Orange River
Colony,™™ who had been marched through the streets ˜˜under an escort
of soldiers with ¬xed bayonets™™ and who were being kept ˜˜in a location
practically prisoners,™™ ˜˜in the most Jingo town in South Africa.™™²µ
These women were housed in wood and corrugated iron sheds and
guarded by British soldiers, in what was already referred to as a ˜˜refugee
camp,™™ although the military admitted that it had forcibly deported the
women for helping Boer ¬ghters.²⁶

   ¤        
Death rates in the camps rose steadily, largely due to disease brought in
with the wagonloads of women and children. The people arrived in
poor condition after traveling for days in open wagons and introduced
pneumonia, measles, and other ailments to the overcrowded and often
underfed populations of the camps (Hobhouse Brunt ). In the white
camps the death rates peaked at a rate of  per ±°°° per annum in
October ±°±, while in the black camps the worst rate was · per ±°°°
per annum, reached in December ±°± (Warwick Black People ±µ). The
subject of health conditions in the camps ¬rst appeared in The Times in
February ±°±, when a Reuter™s story said that at the Kroonstadt camp
in the Orange River Colony, ˜˜The medical o¬cer™s report for January
shows that a normal state of health prevails here. The authorities are
 Gender, race, and the writing of empire
doing their best to make the lot of the refugees as comfortable as
possible. Schools will shortly be established in the camps under quali¬ed
teachers.™™²· Schools were indeed established in the camps for whites,
and the camp administrators came to regard the schools as their greatest
success, largely because they were able to teach English to thousands of
Afrikaans-speaking children.²⁸ But as the camps grew, the camp educa-
tion news was quickly overshadowed by reports of poor health condi-
tions. The deaths in the camps made their way into The Times initially by
way of a wire service transmission of a Boer military proclamation that
was found on a surrendered burgher. ˜˜Many women™s deaths have been
occasioned because the so-called Christian enemy has no consideration
for women on a sick bed or for those whose state of health should have
protected them from rough treatment,™™ the proclamation said.²⁹ The
Daily Mail did not run the report.
The Daily News obtained, ˜˜from a thoroughly accurate and trust-
worthy source,™™ the ¬rst set of mortality statistics from the camps,
complete with names of the dead. The information appeared in the
paper on ± June ±°±, just before the publication of Hobhouse™s report.
The Manchester Guardian cited the Daily News statistics, but the jingo
papers pulled out all the stops to refute them, calling on doctors and
demographers to prove that the camp death statistics were either exag-
gerated or were no worse than the ¬gures in the average English town.
The battle over the numbers persisted between the newspapers almost
until the end of the war.³° The Guardian challenged the government
statistics at the release of every new Blue-book, relying for medical
interpretations on Dr. F. S. Arnold, brother of the Guardian™s W. T.
Arnold (and nephew of Thomas, cousin of Matthew).³¹
By mid-June even the Daily Mail could not ignore parliament™s
discussion of the concentration camps, as the House of Commons
exploded over the publication of Emily Hobhouse™s report to the South
African Women and Children™s Distress Fund. Hobhouse was the ¬rst
civilian to examine all the camps for whites, and she was shocked at
what she found. When her report was released to parliament and the
newspapers, the Daily Mail fumed about the ˜˜anti-national press™™ that
had reported on Hobhouse™s ¬ndings, and how the press had ˜˜concoc-
ted preposterous statistics to convict the horrible Mr. Chamberlain and
the odious Lord Milner of atrocities to women and children.™™³² The ±·
June parliamentary debates on the Hobhouse report took up more than
a page of The Times and more than a column of the Daily Mail, a
considerable amount for both papers.³³ Both devoted leaders to the
The concentration camps controversy and the press
debate, supporting Brodrick in his defense of the conditions in the
camps, and summarizing the debate on the leader page.³⁴
During the debate opposition leader Sir Henry Campbell-Banner-
man called for Hobhouse™s report ˜˜to be published, so that the British
people may know the state of things.™™³µ In his famous ˜˜methods of
barbarism™™ speech about the camps and farm-burning, Campbell-
Bannerman leapt o¬ the fence and into the pro-Boer camp, to the fury
of much of his party. Neither The Times nor the Daily Mail published any
extracts from the Hobhouse report, although both criticized it, The
Times as ˜˜blood-curdling descriptions and . . . false or inaccurate sto-
ries,™™³⁶ the Daily Mail as ˜˜hysterical assertion.™™³· All the papers assumed
a knowledge of the report, whether or not they had published any of it.
They assumed a cross-fertilization of news “ people did not get their
news from just a single source. The Times assumed a knowledge of
information from the Daily Mail, and readers of other papers were also
in¬‚uenced by the news coverage of the halfpennies.
The Manchester Guardian did not excerpt the Hobhouse report either,
but the Daily News release of the mortality rates, coincident with the
report, prompted the Guardian™s ¬rst leader devoted to the subject of the
camps, on ± June.³⁸ And the Guardian took particular exception to The
Times™s critiques of the Hobhouse report, devoting a leader to defending
the ˜˜general moderation™™ of the report.³⁹ Such cross-referencing is what
makes it so di¬cult to identify the in¬‚uence of either ˜˜the press™™ or a
single newspaper on public opinion.
The Times™s concentration camp reports take on an even more defens-
ive tone after the June debates. On ± June ±°±, the day after the
newspaper reports of the camp debates, The Times™s ˜˜special correspon-
dent™™ in Bloemfontein telegraphed that ˜˜there is nothing in Bloemfon-
tein which does not point to progress “ progress, that is, as far as possible
under the present di¬culties. In no department is this more marked
than in the burgher refugee camps under the administration of the
Orange River Colony.™™ The death rate, the reporter said, ˜˜may seem
high, but many reasons have conduced to this high rate, which is rapidly
decreasing.™™⁴° By now The Times and the Daily Mail acknowledged that
the death rates in the camps were abnormally high. The Daily Mail
blamed the British pro-Boers: ˜˜they, and they alone, are responsible for
the fact that the war was not over nearly a year ago, and, in conse-
quence, all the mortality in the concentration camps, and the devasta-
tion tactics which they, in their hypocritical humanitarianism, so loudly
denounce, lies at their door.™™⁴¹ (The pro-Boers prolonged the war by
µ° Gender, race, and the writing of empire
giving the Boers hope that Britain might give in, according to the Daily
Mail argument.)
The Times began to blame Boer women for the deaths in the camps.
The ± June article from Bloemfontein explained that the women in the
camps ˜˜are absolutely without appreciation of the necessity of careful
sanitary cleanliness. The women take but small care of their children.™™⁴²
(Emily Hobhouse™s report noted that soap was not included in the
rations for the Bloemfontein camp [Report to the Committee “µ.]) Blaming
the victims, in this case the Boer mothers, became very popular, starting
with the publication of the ¬rst Colonial O¬ce Blue-book on the camps
in November, described in The Times on ± November. The newspaper
said that the Blue-book, ˜˜after tracing the high death-rate from measles
to the extremely cold nights, goes on to say that the Boer mother is
greatly to blame.™™⁴³ The paper then cited instance after instance from
the book of Boer mothers treating their sick children with useless or
dangerous remedies. Readers sent in letters for months to come, focus-
ing on how the British o¬cials were working against great odds in trying
to lower the death rates in the camps. The death rates, many of these
readers held, were due to the ˜˜callousness to all hygiene of many of the
women and their tendency to have recourse to remedies of a most
detrimental and dangerous character.™™⁴⁴
The Manchester Guardian came out with guns blazing after the publica-
tion of the November Blue-book. It attacked the haphazard way the
report was put together, charging that the lack of structure was meant to
Almost the only passages in a volume of · pages which it is possible to read
consecutively are those in which the inmates of the camps are attacked for the
backward state of their medical and sanitary knowledge. This, indeed, may be
said to be the one ˜˜theme™™ in the Blue-book; all other aspects of the question
are presented in scattered sentences, hidden away in separate reports which are
bundled together at random, without any discoverable system of arrangement
and without even an index or a summary.⁴µ
The emphasis on bad habits among the Boers, the paper charged, was
inappropriate and ˜˜monstrous,™™ and had ˜˜no bearing on the moral
question raised by the mortality in the camps.™™ But the emphasis had its
e¬ect in The Times, the Morning Post, the Daily Telegraph, and other
pro-government newspapers that were to stress the ˜˜¬lthy habits™™ of
Boer mothers in their leaders on the mortality rates. The Guardian was
proud of its ˜˜careful reading and re-reading™™ of the Blue-book, that
˜˜enables one to discover underneath the surface of o¬cial optimism the
The concentration camps controversy and the press
real causes of the mortality which has shocked the country.™™⁴⁶ The
Guardian noted that while some of the ˜˜Ministerialist press™™ still main-
tained that the camps had been formed for the protection of helpless
Boer women and children, the more accurate picture of the families
having been deported from their homes at a moment™s notice against
their will was attested to in the Blue-book: ˜˜There is evidence even in
this Report, prepared as it is by British o¬cials and exclusively from the
o¬cial point of view.™™⁴· The paper delighted in turning the govern-
ment™s own statistics and reports on the camps back against the govern-
The Daily Mail did not report on the Blue-book at all and carried no
articles or letters blaming Boer mothers for camp deaths. Even when its
war correspondent Edgar Wallace scooped the rest of the London
papers with his advance report of the ¬ndings of the Ladies Commission
sent out by Chamberlain to inspect the camps, Wallace avoided sensa-
tionalism. He gave a straightforward account of the ¬ndings and recom-
mendations of the group and did not cite any of the mother-blame
stories that would later appear in the commission™s Blue-book. Wallace,
however, could not resist, or his editor in London couldn™t, commenting
that the commission was unnecessary in the ¬rst place and ˜˜need never
have been appointed.™™⁴⁸ The Times encouraged the Ladies Commission
investigation into the camps, convinced that investigation would vindi-
cate the government of any fault in the operation of the camps.⁴⁹
A major di¬erence between The Times™ and the Daily Mail™s coverage
of the camps was The Times™s regular inclusion of reports of European
and American opinion about the camps. Foreign correspondents of
London dailies enjoyed more freedom in their reporting than local
reporters (Brown Victorian News ±°µ). It was up to the foreign correspon-
dent to determine what was news in international capitals, and their
reports were often more pro-British than those of reporters in London.
The Times Vienna correspondent reported in late ±°±, for example, that
˜˜the combined e¬orts of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Miss
Hobhouse have now enlightened foreigners in the remotest corners of
Europe as to the ˜barbarous methods™ practiced by the British army in
South Africa.™™µ° The Times emphasis on ˜˜foreign calumnies™™ was con-
sistent with its image as an in¬‚uential paper for the middle classes and
above, while the Daily Mail™s lack of interest in foreign opinion of the
camps also ¬ts that paper™s image of parochialism.
The Daily News and the Manchester Guardian relied on translations of
reports in foreign newspapers for their news on foreign opinion about
µ Gender, race, and the writing of empire
the camps. Since the foreign news was all anti-British, it was the same in
the conservative papers as it was in anti-government papers. The
Guardian, however, stressed the loss of reputation and honor involved in
foreign disapproval of the camps, while The Times thumbed its nose at
the continent.
None of the controversy around the conditions or the death rates in
the camps for Boers spilled over into public concern in Britain for the
inhabitants of the camps for Africans. When Africans appeared in news
stories in either The Times or the Daily Mail, it was in articles about
whether or not African men should be allowed to carry guns if they were
working for the British army or in articles about Boer troops committing
atrocities on blacks.µ¹ The former stories were exemplary of the British
e¬ort to see the war as a ˜˜white man™s war,™™µ² and the latter played an
important role in keeping before the British public the notion that the
war was being fought at least partially to secure better treatment for
Africans in the republics.µ³ The Times did mention the black camps
occasionally, but never to cite conditions in them; the articles focused on
how the men in the camps were being employed by the British and how
the inhabitants were growing their own crops for food.µ⁴
The only direct mention of African women in any of the newspapers
during the course of the war was the Daily News™s Arthur Hales™s attempt
at a literary sketch, ˜˜In a Boer Town,™™ which appeared on ±° May ±°°:
The girls are rather pleasing in appearance though far from being pretty . . .
The Ka¬r girl is very dark, almost black. The bushman™s daughter is dirty
yellow, like river water in ¬‚ood time . . . But whether they are black, brown, or
co¬ee-coloured, they are all alike in one respect “ every daughter of them has a
mouth that is as boundless as a mother™s blessing, and as limitless as the
imagination of a spring poet in love . . . It is amusing to watch them ¬‚irting with
the soldier niggers. They try to look coy, but soon fall victims to the skilful
blandishments of the vainglorious warriors, and after a little manoeuvering
they put out their lips to be kissed, a sight which might well make a Scottish
Covenanter grin. ()
Hales™s description of the African woman™s mouth is couched in mock-
praise, but the point is that the mouth is ˜˜boundless™™ and ˜˜limitless,™™ a
mouth that could swallow up a poor unsuspecting man.µµ Hales follows
up his description of the African women with the white man™s anxiety
about his abilities in comparison to the black man; apparently, the
˜˜soldier niggers™™ ˜˜do enough love-making in twenty-four hours to last
an ordinary everyday sort of white man four months, even if he puts in a
little overtime.™™ Generally, however, Africans appeared in the papers
The concentration camps controversy and the press
only in their capacities of helping or hindering the British war e¬ort.
The extent of the Manchester Guardian™s interest was to lament the lack of
mortality statistics for the ˜˜native camps.™™ Africans in the war were not
of su¬cient concern to war correspondents and editors to warrant
frequent stories, and the operative assumption was that they were not of
concern to the British reader.

° µ ¬ ©   ° © ®© ®  ® ¤     °
To sum up, in its coverage of the concentration camps, The Times was
much more responsive to parliament than was the Daily Mail. The
Manchester Guardian took a great deal of initiative in its camp coverage,
commissioning articles from Emily Hobhouse and spending hours sift-
ing through the government™s statistics to try to get a larger picture of
the situation in the camps, and losing a great deal of readership along
the way. The Daily News also contributed painstaking analysis of the
camp statistics and lost a great deal of money over its opposition to the
war and the camps. From the ¬rst parliamentary debate on the concen-
tration camps until the end of the war, The Times followed up the
controversy about the camps with more wire service items, more foreign
news, more interest from its own correspondents in South Africa, more
leaders, and, consequently, more letters to the editor about the camps
than appeared in the Daily Mail. The Times coverage and editorial
attitudes came from long-established traditions of parliamentary report-
ing and a certain amount of loyalty to the Conservative government. As
George Boyce explains, ˜˜It seemed to be representative of a certain kind
of public opinion “ that is, of the enlightened, educated middle classes;
and it set out to give its readers a constant stream of information and
free comment necessary for the public to form a considered judgement™™
(˜˜Fourth Estate™™ , ). The Daily Mail, on the other hand, was starting
a new tradition “ presenting what readers want to read, so as to sell
newspapers. Neither The Times nor the Daily Mail presented the ˜˜pro-
Boer™™ side to the question of the camps, and neither addressed the issue
of the African camps. But both saw themselves as in¬‚uencing British
public opinion in favor of British imperial interests and in favor of the
policy of pursuing the Boer War.
Pioneering New Journalist Kennedy Jones said that the Daily Mail™s
service to imperialism could be compared with Kipling™s (quoted in
Palmer ˜˜British Press™™ ±·). The comparison between journalism and
literature e¬ectively indicates these media™s similar roles in the creation
µ Gender, race, and the writing of empire
and sustenance of the ideology of imperialism. But where literature,
such as Kipling™s fund-raising poem ˜˜The Absent-Minded Beggar,™™ can
be seen in its role as supporting such ideological notions as nationalism
or imperialism or home-front patriotism, newspapers are more asso-
ciated with in¬‚uence on ˜˜public opinion,™™ which was concerned with
policies that required demonstrable public support in order to function
well. The newspapers believed that they could in¬‚uence public opinion,
and the provision of such information as camp death rates does seem to
have created a level of public concern that transcended party a¬liation.
But the camps debate highlights changes that were coming with the new
century. Some ideologies remained ¬rmly in place “ all the newspapers
seemed to share the same attitudes toward Africans in the war, for
example. But while the New Journalism was giving voice to the new
jingoism, it was also allowing the expression of attitudes that had been
impermissible. The newspaper that most represented things to come,
the Daily Mail, never expressed concern about the women and children
in the camps; the ideology of man as protector of woman was fast giving
way. The popular press could advocate half-starving Boer women and
children at the same time as the more old-fashioned newspapers were
invoking the more old-fashioned spirit of chivalry in defense of the
camps. The ideological shifts represented by the new tabloid journalism
were helping to insure that the South African War would be ˜˜the last of
the gentlemen™s wars.™™
° 

Gender ideology as military policy “
the camps, continued

With the concentration camps controversy, stories about women ap-
peared in the war reports for the ¬rst time in the South African con¬‚ict.
The war had boasted no Florence Nightingale and, because the Boer
republics had no communities of British women and children (all had
¬‚ed to the British Cape Colony at the start of trouble), chivalric patriot-
ism could not be invoked in defense of helpless memsahibs as in the
Sepoy Rebellion of ±µ· (Sharpe Allegories of Empire, Brantlinger, Rule of
Darkness). The Boer War, coming as it did at the cusp of Victorianism
and Edwardianism, featured new anxieties and uncertainties about
men™s role in relation to women. The ˜˜last of the gentlemen™s wars™™
marked a transition in Britain for both imperialism and Victorian
conceptions of men™s duties towards women. In the concentration
camps controversy, the press and other public discourse frequently
invoked shared ideology about gender and race “ that is, much writing
about the camps, on both sides of the issue, assumed certain shared
notions in its readers about men™s obligations to women and the position
of Africans in relation to Europeans. These shared ideas were called
upon in support of notions about Empire and about the Boer War in
particular that were not shared ideology “ that is, questions about
Britain™s role in South Africa and about its methods of prosecuting the
war were matters of opinion rather than of ideology, to be openly
debated in the public sphere, especially the newspapers. The changes
made by the popular press at the turn of the century “ the expanded
readership, the shift toward sensationalism and personality and away
from parliamentary reporting and exclusive attention to political ¬gures
“ made it possible for the camps controversy to become news and to
then force political action. The changing status of women in the late-
Victorian period coincided with the emergence of the popular press,
and this chapter will explore the emergence of the camps as a new
category of political danger: the ˜˜women™s issue.™™
µ Gender, race, and the writing of empire
In the South African camps and back in Britain, women in¬‚uenced
the course of the Boer War and South African history through a curious
set of circumstances whereby they were simultaneously victims, sym-
bols, and political actors, sometimes all in the same person. In looking at
the ways women were portrayed and portrayed themselves in the
controversy over the concentration camps, we see the simultaneous
operation of competing discourses about women™s duties, obligations,
and place. After examining what the average Briton would have been
reading about the Boer women in the camps, this chapter discusses the
careful ideological work done by the two women at the heart of the
camps controversy, Emily Hobhouse and Millicent Fawcett.
Recent critics have addressed the roles of gender and sexuality in the
literature of imperialism and of Empire in the literature of women. Anne
McClintock™s broad study of imperialism in nineteenth- and twentieth-
century culture examines H. Rider Haggard, Olive Schreiner, Empire-
oriented advertising, and much more. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan
Gubar explore the ˜˜heart of darkness™™ in the literature of Haggard and
Joseph Conrad, as well as the connections between imperialism and
women™s desire for ˜˜home rule™™ in the ¬ction of such writers as
Schreiner and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Susan Meyer explores Victor-
ian women novelists™ complicated relationship to questions of race and
empire. Jenny Sharpe™s work on both literary texts and other public and
private discourse “ such as newspapers, narratives of the Sepoy Rebel-
lion, and diaries “ makes clear the extent of imperial ideology™s reliance
on the ¬gure of the white woman, especially the sexually threatened
white woman. Deirdre David also addresses both literary and ˜˜cultural
documents™™ in her study of women in the construction of Empire, and
this chapter can be said to begin with her assertion that ˜˜in the
late-nineteenth-century questioning of British engagement abroad, wor-
ries about empire and race are inseparable from patriarchal worries
about female cultural assertion™™ (Rule Britannia ).
Joan Wallach Scott advocates the study ˜˜of processes, not of origins,
of multiple rather than single causes™™ (Gender ), and this chapter
explores the multiple processes involved in the sustenance of the idea of
imperialism in late-Victorian Britain. Imperialism cannot be said to
originate solely in economics; even J. A. Hobson™s analysis of the
capitalist roots of the phenomenon, examined in chapter one, acknowl-
edged the importance of cultural and social supports for an imperial
policy. Language is the terrain in which the contradictions involved in
the creation of hegemony are worked out, and British writing about the
Gender ideology as military policy
concentration camps reveals the process of this working out, the recon-
ciling of contradictions, the co-opting of ideas. During the Boer War,
the contradictions often overrode the hegemonic power of the discourse
of public o¬cials. British journalism, government Blue-books, and War
O¬ce and Colonial O¬ce correspondence reveal the fragility of certain
ideas that had been strong ideological supports for imperialism.
Rather than aiming to recreate the consciousness of the Boers and
Africans in the concentration camps, this chapter focuses on the discur-
sive relationship between these groups and political ¬gures and journal-
ists in Britain. The presence of these subordinate groups within the
discourse of elites in Britain is essential to the constitution of those elites,
who operate only as ˜˜part of an immense discontinuous network (˜text™
in the general sense) of strands that may be termed politics, ideology,
economics, history, sexuality, language, and so on™™ (Spivak In Other
Worlds °). Imperialism in Britain, in its many manifestations, cannot
be seen separately from the colonial or, in this consideration, the
colonial woman. British imperialism depended on particular discursive
relationships of British policy-makers to British women, Boers, and
Africans in South Africa.
New contradictions that arose within imperial ideology during the
Boer War were approached di¬erently by the di¬erent sides on the
concentration camps issue. While all the Britons whose writings I
examine had a stake in maintaining British hegemony in some way,
some were willing to challenge aspects of it and some worked hard to
strengthen its hold. Emily Hobhouse and her sympathizers tried to take
advantage of the split in public opinion caused by the camps, while
Brodrick and Millicent Fawcett tried to heal the break and reclaim
British imperial hegemony.

   ¤ ©   µ  ©   °   ©  ©  ®  ¦ ·   ® © ®    ·  
Fewer British women made the trek to the Transvaal than went to India
in the nineteenth century, because the British presence in the Witwater-
srand was not an administrative or military one. Most British in Johan-
nesburg had come for one reason “ gold. These ˜˜Uitlanders,™™ with little
stake in the politics and social life of the region save what a¬ected the
money they could take home, brought no community of women from
England to keep domestic and social order for them. There was no need
for the memsahib in the South African republic of the Transvaal. The
British colonies of Natal and Cape Colony were di¬erent from the
µ Gender, race, and the writing of empire
Transvaal in this regard, maintaining a social structure closer to the
usual patterns of colonial settlement.
The British government and British mine-owners and workers in the
Transvaal expressed little interest in those British women who had come
to the region before war broke out in ±, except during the Jameson
Raid of ±µ. The raid was the trigger to the Afrikaner disa¬ection with
the British that culminated in the Boer War. When in the autumn of
±µ Cecil Rhodes and Leander Starr Jameson hatched their plot to
take over the Transvaal for Britain, they decided that a plausible
premise for such an invasion would be the need to liberate the oppressed
Uitlanders. But it was ¬rst necessary to prove that the Uitlanders wanted
liberating. So Rhodes and mine-owner Alfred Beit organized a commit-
tee of mine-owners to write a letter of appeal from the Transvaal British
that would be left undated for future use: ˜˜Thousands of unarmed men,
women and children of our race will be at the mercy of well-armed
Boers, while property of enormous value will be in the greatest peril . . .
All feel that we are justi¬ed in taking any steps to prevent the shedding of
blood, and to insure the protection of our rights™™ (quoted in Woods and
Bishop Story of the Times ±). Thomas Pakenham points out that ˜˜it was
stirring stu¬ about the women and children, but not the precise truth,
they knew,™™ especially since the letter was written a month before it was
used as an invitation to invade (Boer War “). The only danger in
Johannesburg to Uitlanders was the danger of losing a substantial part
of their income to Boer taxes. The fact that the letter came to be known
as the ˜˜women and children letter™™ indicates a certain amount of
self-awareness on the part of the players involved as to how such images
were used. Nevertheless, the British were to return to the powerful
picture of helpless women and children in South Africa a few years later
when they were called upon to justify the concentration camps.

  ® ®  © ®   ° 
The decision to clear the Boer republics and deport Boer women and
children and African men, women, and children into what had previ-
ously been ˜˜refugee camps™™ for surrendered Boers was not well con-
sidered. Pakenham points out that the initiative was Lord Kitchener™s
and ˜˜had all the hallmarks of one of Kitchener™s famous short cuts. It
was big, ambitious, simple, and (what always endeared Kitchener to
Whitehall) extremely cheap™™ (Boer War ). The camps had been
started, Kitchener said in a ° December ±°° cable to War Secretary
Gender ideology as military policy
Brodrick, because: ˜˜Every farm is to [the Boers] an intelligence agency
and a supply depot so that it is almost impossible to surround or catch
them.™™ The inhabitants of these farms were largely women and
children, most men being out on commando. Kitchener therefore
decided, in order ˜˜to meet some of the di¬culties,™™ ˜˜to bring in the
women from the more disturbed districts to laagers near the railway and
o¬er the burghers to join them there.™™¹ So Kitchener saw himself as
solving a military problem by deporting women from their farms and
establishing the concentration camps. He was not concerned about how
the camps would be received by the British public or the Boers in the
¬eld, let alone by newspapers on the European continent. Those public
relations problems fell to Brodrick.
According to Kitchener, the ¬rst lot of white women were brought
into concentration camps for spying.² After the early stages of the war,
however, white and black families appear to have been brought in
because the British had con¬scated or burned their homes and food.
Even with burned crops and homes, however, many Boer women
begged British o¬cers to be allowed to stay on the veldt and await the
return of their men rather than enter the camps.
In March, after questions in parliament forced Brodrick to cable
Kitchener for information about the camps, Kitchener was reassuring
about the need for the camps: ˜˜The refugee camps for women and
surrendered boers are I am sure doing good work[;] it enables a man to
surrender and not lose his stock and movable property . . . The women
left in farms give complete intelligence to the boers of all our movements
and feed the commandos in their neighbourhood.™™³ Just over a week
before, when asked by John Ellis whether ˜˜the persons in those camps
[were] held to be prisoners of war™™ and by Irish M.P. John Dillon ˜˜Are
they guarded by sentries with bayonets?™™ Brodrick had told the House
of Commons, ˜˜[T]hese camps are voluntary camps formed for protec-
tion. Those who come may go.™™⁴
Why didn™t the War O¬ce from the ¬rst admit that the camps were
established to keep the Boer women from passing intelligence along to
the commandos? In admitting that, they would have been admitting
that the women were imprisoned because of their military activities, and
were in fact, as the Liberals and the Irish M.P.s were saying, prisoners of
war. Part of the reason for their reticence was that Brodrick had been
virtually in the dark about the camps himself from the formation of the
earliest ones in September ±°°. Information was extremely slow in
coming from the closed-mouthed Kitchener, and Brodrick does not
° Gender, race, and the writing of empire
appear to have known whether or not women could leave the camps.
But if the War O¬ce was going to make any assumptions in parliament
about the status of the camp inhabitants, it was going to err on the side
of making the women out to be grateful guests, not prisoners. Although
Brodrick insisted that ˜˜those who come may go,™™ the women were not
free to leave the camps.
But even Brodrick had not settled, this early in the controversy, the
way in which the camps should be portrayed. When, in the exchange
cited above, Brodrick was asked by John Ellis for details he could not
supply, the Secretary betrayed his confusion. He admitted that ˜˜a
certain number of women had been deported to the laager.™™ Dillon, to
loud Irish cheers, asked, ˜˜What civilized Government ever deported
women? Had it come to this, that this Empire was afraid of women?™™
Brodrick stepped deeper into it when he responded that ˜˜Women and
children who have been deported are those who have either been found
giving information to the enemy or are suspected of giving information
to the enemy.™™ An outraged Dillon returned: ˜˜I ask the honourable
gentleman if any civilized nation in Europe ever declared war against
women . . . A pretty pass has the British Empire come to now!™™µ The
government soon stopped referring to the deportation of women and
children and to the camps™ function in keeping potential spies o¬ the
The opposition, in parliament and in the press, continued to harp
on the women™s status as prisoners until, at Emily Hobhouse™s recom-
mendation in June, Brodrick agreed to allow camp inhabitants to leave
if they had relatives or friends to go to. He wrote to Kitchener on
± June that ˜˜Our line has been that they are not penal but a necessary
provision for clearing the country of people not wanted there and who
cannot be fed separately. In consequence if you can allow any who can
support themselves to go to towns so much the better.™™⁶ Hobhouse
noted, however, that this policy declaration took quite a while to ¬lter
down into actual practice in the camps. As of September, Alice
Greene wrote to Hobhouse from South Africa that ˜˜At the meeting
last Friday at the Ladies™ Central Committee in Cape Town no one
seemed to know any instance of any one released in answer to Mr.
Brodrick™s concessions™™ (van Reenen Hobhouse Letters ). And as late
as  April ±° Hobhouse was pleading in the Guardian: ˜˜Pressure of
public opinion has brought about reforms in the material conditions of
the camps; can no similar pressure be brought to bear such as shall
remind Mr. Brodrick of his promise that women able to leave the
Gender ideology as military policy
camps should be allowed to do so? That promise has proved itself
worthless and worse than worthless, for hopes were raised by it in
Farm-burning was a point of contention in the British press, with
the sides breaking down into pro-Boer versus pro-war over the issue.
Few people who supported the war were prepared to quarrel with the
methods by which Roberts and Kitchener were ¬ghting it. Letters in
newspapers revealed that it was primarily opponents of the war, the
˜˜pro-Boers,™™ who were speaking out strongly against the farm-
burning. But the camps were another matter. The Great British Public
could get upset about the death rates and the conditions in the camps
without criticizing the generals, the soldiers, or the government™s war
policy. While farm-burning was military strategy, the camps could be
seen as a humanitarian issue. ˜˜Non-political™™ churches passed resol-
utions deploring the conditions in the camps. Imperialist groups such
as the Victoria League formed committees to help the camp inhabit-
ants. The Manchester Guardian complained that the camps had become
a party issue, but in fact people broke party rank much more often on
the question of the concentration camps than on the farm-burning
Brodrick noted as early as April ±°± in a letter to Kitchener that
˜˜some of our own people are hot on the humanitarian tack™™⁹ on the
subject of the camps. In May, Brodrick noted that he was preparing
papers for the House on farm-burning and the camps. For farm-
burning, he had ˜˜arranged so as simply to show the farms-dates-cause,™™
while he was a bit more worried about the camps because ˜˜we have a
demand from responsible people headed by some MPs to allow (±) Extra
comforts to be sent in () some access by responsible and accredited
people who can assist in measures for improving the life in the camps ()
some latitude as to visitors “ friends of the refugees.™™ Brodrick was
prepared to go along with points ± and , especially because ˜˜they have
also shown considerable discretion as they have had and communicated
to Govt some harrowing accounts of the condition of the earlier camps
(Janr. & Febr.) and have not used them publicly.™™¹° Kitchener™s reply
was: ˜˜I do not think people from England would be any use or help to
the families in camp as they already have a number of people looking
after them but fund might help them if properly administered. I wish I
could get rid of these camps but it is the only way to settle the country
and enable the men to leave their commandos and come in to their
families without being caught and tried for desertion.™™¹¹ Kitchener,
 Gender, race, and the writing of empire
then, saw the camps almost exclusively in terms of the men in them “ a
tiny percentage of the inmates. He described the camps in terms of their
military function in getting Boers to surrender. On the other hand, the
camps, as Brodrick indicated, were being seen in Britain strictly in terms
of their women and children inhabitants.
Brodrick was forced to press the point with Kitchener for the sake of
public opinion in Britain and in the future colonies in South Africa: ˜˜If
we can get supplies and interest in these unlucky people we shall not
only still public feeling here, but smooth the path for the future. I
imagine the returns from St. Helena &c will be much a¬ected in temper
by the care taken of their women kind.™™¹² The opinions of the camp
inhabitants did not worry Brodrick; public opinion in South Africa
meant the opinions of white men, although in England public opinion
appeared also to include women of the upper classes “ ˜˜responsible
people™™ such as Mary Ward. Brodrick was prophetic about Boer public
opinion on the camps; the Boer ¬ghters who returned from prisoner of
war camps in Ceylon and St. Helena to the new colonies after the war
were ˜˜much a¬ected in temper by the care taken of their women kind,™™
but it was by the huge number of deaths in the camps that they were
a¬ected. Relations between Britain and South Africa were soured by
memories of the camps for decades to come. Kitchener continually
brushed o¬ attempts from the War O¬ce to address the camps in the
terms in which they were being discussed in London, as an issue about
women and children.
Except for a few pro-Boer holdouts, the people of Britain had proved
willing to believe the best about the necessity for the war in the ¬rst
place. But would the public stand for its military locking up white
women wholesale to keep them from spying? The War O¬ce had its
doubts, and Brodrick realized that he should play down the idea that the
women™s imprisonment might be related to their own potential for
military activities. If the British were going to imprison the Boer women
and their children, they were going to have to do it within a discourse
that ¬t nineteenth-century male-female relations. The government
framed its policy in terms of the need of white women to be protected by
white men.

®  ©  µ  § 
By establishing the camps, the argument ran, British men were adopting
the duties shirked by the unmanly Boers on commando who had
Gender ideology as military policy
˜˜deserted™™ their families, leaving them to starve.¹³ In The Times, Britons
read Brodrick™s parliamentary reply to Lloyd George in June ±°± that if
the Boer ¬ghters had been willing ˜˜to provide for their women and
children, many of those di¬culties which are now complained of would
never have occurred.™™¹⁴ Boers were not behaving as men should toward
˜˜their™™ women and children. In addition, The Times leader-writers
reminded readers that, ˜˜To release most of these women now would be
to send them to starve and to expose them to outrages from the natives
which would set all South Africa in a ¬‚ame.™™¹µ
Thus the discourse of the government and the government-support-
ing press brought together two central ideologies of Victorian Britain “
the weakness of woman and the sexual savagery of the black man
towards the white woman.¹⁶ Black women ¬gured hardly at all in these
writings about the camps “ no category existed for them, since
˜˜women™™ were white and ˜˜natives™™ were men.¹· This discourse of
protection of white women had of course been employed earlier in
British imperialism, starting, as Jenny Sharpe argues, with the Sepoy
Rebellion of ±µ·. As Patrick Brantlinger (Rule of Darkness °) and
Sharpe (Allegories of Empire ) show, sexual atrocities against British
women were commonly attributed to the Indian mutineers, even after
investigations had disproved such allegations. The signi¬cance of this
rhetoric lies in the way it uses racism to produce a particular chivalric
reaction in the British male, a reaction that serves a particular political
or economic purpose.
Jenny Sharpe™s analysis of the emergence of the trope of the native
rapist in British accounts of the Mutiny emphasizes ˜˜the slippage
between the violation of English women as the object of rape and the
violation of colonialism as the object of rebellion™™ (Allegories of Empire ),
and this slippage would seem to be in operation as well in the spread of
lynching throughout the southern United States after the Civil War. As
Hazel V. Carby explains, the charge of raping white women stood in for
a charge of rebellion against white superiority. In ±, Ida B. Wells™s
Southern Horrors analyzed the rhetoric about lynching to reveal the
political and economic repression that was the real cause of the horror,
despite white propagandists™ attempts to invoke the image of the black
rapist. As Carby explains:
Wells recognized that the Southerners™ appeal to Northerners for sympathy on
the ˜˜necessity™™ of lynching was very successful. It worked, she thought, through
the claim that any condemnation of lynching constituted a public display of
indi¬erence to the ˜˜plight™™ of white womanhood . . . Black disenfranchisement
 Gender, race, and the writing of empire
and Jim Crow segregation had been achieved; now, the annihilation of a black
political presence was shielded behind a ˜˜screen of defending the honor of
[white] women.™™ (˜˜On the Threshold of Woman™s Era™™ )
The image of endangered white womanhood was invoked during the
Boer War for political and economic reasons as well, but the absence of
British potential rape victims meant that the deployment of the black
rapist stereotype was less straightforward. Chivalry was indeed used as a
justi¬cation for aspects of Boer War imperialism. But where the Mutiny
victims had been portrayed as proper upper-class ladies who needed to
be protected or revenged, in the South African case, the potential rape
victims were not only not British or upper class, they were actually the
property of the enemy.
It is a testimony to the enduring power of the image of the black rapist
to see that image used to justify ˜˜defending™™ the wives of the enemy in
the Boer War and, indeed, to see it used by both sides in the concentra-
tion camps debates. One of the central themes of Emily Hobhouse™s The
Brunt of the War and Where It Fell is the cruelty of the British military for
subjecting Boer women to humiliation at the hands of ˜˜Ka¬rs.™™ Hob-
house quoted a petition from Boer women in the Klerksdorp camp
citing the circumstances of their being brought in:
On this occasion Ka¬rs were used, and they equalled the English soldiers in
cruelty and barbarity. The women knelt before these Ka¬rs and begged for
mercy, but they were roughly shaken o¬, and had to endure even more
impudent language and rude behavior . . . When the mothers were driven like
cattle through the streets of Potchefstroom by the Ka¬rs, the cries and
lamentations of the children ¬lled the air. The Ka¬rs jeered and cried, ˜˜Move
on; till now you were our masters, but now we will make your women our
wives.™™ (Brunt ±)
The ˜˜you™™ who is addressed by the jeers is not the Boer woman who is
portrayed as the victim “ it is the male Boer, and male Boers appear
nowhere in the narrative. Hobhouse creates an image of Boer women
and children, unaccompanied by ˜˜their™™ men, under threat from hos-
tile, predatory Africans. But the words the Boer women themselves
attribute to the Africans in their petition seem to contradict the picture,
for they assume a male auditor. Indeed, the Boer women™s petition is the
closest Boer War narratives get to the Mutiny writings Sharpe describes
“ jeering, threatening black men assert their new power over their old
masters by claiming sexual privileges over white women.¹⁸ In the Mu-
tiny stories, the image for the rebellion itself became the image of Sepoys
humiliating British men by sexually violating their wives and daughters.
Gender ideology as military policy
In the Boer War, the threatened violations by black men were not of


. 2
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