Second Anglo Boer War propaganda poetry – the British side of things

I am over at Writing to be Read today with a second post about the Second Anglo Boer War propaganda poetry. This post presents the pre-war propaganda position of the British Empire and includes a poem by Rudyard Kipling. Thank you Kayle Lynne Booth for hosting me.

South African War | Definition, Causes, History, & Facts | Britannica
British troops fighting in trenches during the Second Anglo Boer War

In my post entitled Second Anglo Boer War propaganda Poetry – the Boer side of things, I gave a brief overview of the circumstances that led to the Boers declaring war on the British Empire for the second time.

The late 19th century saw a significant increase in imperialism in Britain, spurred on by the theories of social Darwinism which argued that the biological concepts of natural selection and survival of the fittest should be applied to sociology and politics. This imperialism provided an ideological foundation for warfare and colonisation in the name of the British Empire.

Journalism was used to disseminate these ideas to the British public and, in the years leading up to the Second Anglo Boer War, newspapers were characterised by extreme pro-war propaganda, which was strictly controlled by the British High Commission in South Africa, Sir Alfred Milner.

After a holiday to South Africa in early 1898, Rudyard Kipling became friendly with Cecil John Rhodes, a British mining magnate and politician in southern Africa, Leander Starr Jameson, the leader of the botched Jameson Raid which aimed to overthrow the Transvaal government in December 1895, and Sir Alfred Milner. Kipling cultivated these friendships and came to admire these men and their politics. Before and during the Second Anglo Boer War, Kipling wrote poetry in support of the British cause in the Boer War.

Rudyard Kipling - Wikipedia
Rudyard Kipling as a young man

One of Kipling’s early propaganda poems was The Old Issue which is published in his The Five Nations book of poetry.

Continue reading here:

The cover of my forthcoming novel, A Ghost and His Gold

41 thoughts on “Second Anglo Boer War propaganda poetry – the British side of things

    1. Hi Chelsea, I also enjoy learning historical aspects about other countries. The Last of the Mohicans taught me a bit about US history, as have many other books and movies. The Red Badge of Courage gave me insight into the Civil War and war generally.

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  1. Interesting timing for an interesting post, Robbie. This was a time in British history of which we are now mostly ashamed. I don’t know if news coverage has reached South Africa, but Rhodes’ statue is likely to be removed from its site at Oxford University, and I suspect that memorials to Kipling will go the same way. The arrogance in his poem is truly repugnant to modern readers.

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      1. I don’t see it as tossing it aside, more that we are actually learning from history that things which were allowed then are unacceptable now. The problem comes, I think, when everyone with a cause to promote jumps on the bandwagon, and it then becomes easy to lose sight of the important things.

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        1. Well said, Clive. As I said earlier, history also needs to be considered in totality. The European colonialists oppressed in foreign countries, but look at how they treated their own people. In the late 19th century, the British were putting small children up chimneys and down mines. There was no consideration or protection for anyone, anywhere.

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    1. HI Clive, I have mixed views about the removal of the statues. My mother is all for it, she says that these symbols of oppression, not only in the colonies but in Britain itself, should be removed. I am against the destruction of our history, good or bad. These things are part of our collective past and retaining them reminds us about our history and that we must strive not to repeat it. Removal makes it easy for everyone to forget about it and I don’t think that should happen.

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      1. The suggestion here is that the statues should be removed from public sites and installed in museums. That seems to me to be a good compromise, as it will still enable those who want to learn about history to do so, without in some way glorifying parts of our past that may not merit that.

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  2. As you have pointed out, all our histories are complicated. The justifications for wars are usually not very pretty in retrospect. And yet we seem to learn little from our follies. (K)

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    1. History is complex, Kerfe, and it is better not to consider any single aspect in isolation so as to get a rounded picture of the circumstances in the world at a point in time. Sadly, I don’t know much about Chinese history, for example, although I know quite a bit about Japanese history. Some people are very greedy and they are usually the ones that achieve positions of power due to their ambition. That is why things never change and improve [I think].

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  3. Greed coupled with power has driven most of history and still does BUT I am of the same mind as you Robbie as regards statues we can’t hide history and we should have far more comprehensive curriculums in all schools…Everything should be taught and discussed both good and bad so lessons can be learned. I am enjoying these history lessons..Thank you, Robbie :)..Love your cover by the way 🙂

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