The Boer War 1899-1902
How far do you agree with the opinion that the Boer war acted as a spur to much needed reform in Britain? The Boer war acted as a catalyst to reform in many ways. It had considerable impact politically and socially. Many changes were put in place, from improving the army to public health care. Initially what acted as a spur was the amount of deaths and the cost of the war, 22,000 were killed costing ? 200 million therefore this led to a wake up call for the Army.
However one may argue that it was not just the Boer war that induced reforms to be made in Britain; individuals such as Richard Burton Haldane who was appointed war minister could have implemented changes without the Boer war being a significant factor. The Committee of Imperial defence was set up in 1903 addressing that critical reform was needed in regards to the way Britain defended itself and strategy of planning.
This was introduced to learn lesson from the Boer war furthermore Lord Salisbury established the Royal Commissions under Lord Elgin, some of the changes that were implemented was the abolition of the post of Commander in Chief, this was highly significant as it allowed other posts to be introduced and the elite class did not buy there way into the Army and posts were given by merit hence allowing more competent individuals to run the Army. Source B shows that inefficiencies of the armed forces and the how important the Esher Report was in reforming it.
The source highlighted that there was much needed reform in the army and much of these reforms that were introduced were due to the Boer war, “it coolly analysed the confusions and ineffectiveness of military administration” considering the provenance I can see that it is from a Book by the historian Corelli Barnett who studied English military history and it was published in 1970 hence implying that Barnett must have collected a wide range of sources over a long period of time and judged them fairly before coming to a rational conclusion.
Source A suggests that Britain has had “an imperial lesson” and will learn from it and will strengthen the Empire. The nature of the source is an extract from a poem by Rudyard Kipling. The provenance could be challenged as it was written by Kipling who was pro Empire, so it may have an exaggerative nature however one may argue that the idea of reform as a result of the Boer war was widespread and accepted at the time, moreover source B which is reliable also accepts the viewpoint.
There were huge numbers of men that were deemed unfit for military service; this was made apparent when they led an investigation into why it took so long and why it was so expensive just to defeat 50 000 farmers, from this investigation they saw that they had to make changes hence why the Committee on Physical Deterioration was established; it was set up in 1903 and found that it was not physical deterioration regarding physical health but there was a growing need to improve living, working and education conditions.
This produced the need for national efficiency. Many different groups wanted to improve Britains social system by making the Empire efficient and putting more children into Education for longer to allow the spread of social mobility. A meritocracy was also introduced thus allowing individuals to embark of a career based on qualifications and not social class. This could only have been put in place because of the Boer war. Source D evidently shows the need for national efficiency, it shows that 26. % of people were rejected out of 3600 recruits in Sheffield, York and Leeds. “3 out of 5 volunteers were rejected” this was astonishingly high and highlighted the pressing need to change Britain socially. Free school meals were introduced in 1906 and provision of medical inspections of children. The National Insurance Act of 1911 which provided free medical health for the working class. As a results of the many deaths that occurred in the Second Boer war, new administrative structures were put in place.
From acknowledging the fast reactions, skills and talented nature of the Boers, the British needed to put some hard reforms in place. Firstly they removed the traditional bright scarlet uniform for the khaki which allowed a better disguise, new weaponry was introduced such as the Lee Enfield rifle and quick firing guns were produced which were learned from massacres like the one at spion kop. Hence showing that all these changes were due to the learning of mistakes from the Boer war.
Source C is an extract from a memorandum from Haldane on military reform published in 1907 this was written by Haldane who was appointed the war minister thus implying that this source is accurate as a war minister would not make exaggerated claims on reforming the military, therefore the provenance of this source is reliable, this source explains the mobilisation of the territorial or home force. However some may say that it was not largely due to the result of the Boer war but because of political changes that were inevitably going to take place.
Whenever a new party comes into power is it understandable that they would make important decisions on how to run the country, nevertheless one may argue that the Boer war had an impact on decision making. Furthermore judging from the sources most of them all are in agreement with each other Sources B, C and D are written by reliable people, Historian and politicians were are Source A is a poem written by an individual who is pro empire however there is substantial evidence to support what is written in this poem. Hence why I agree with the view that the second Boer war resulted in much needed reform in Britain.