chapter
11 Pages

Introduction

Historians have long recognized that the South African War was unique in scale and significance. It was a 'little war' which involved the whole nation. It was the purest example of an 'imperialist' war. Not only did it revive the moral issue of the right of small, weak nations to independence, it also provided the clearest case for an economic interpretation of imperialism. These facets of the question have been examined almost to the point of extinction. The Jameson Raid and Chamberlain's complicity, the influence of the Rand gold-owners, the determination of Milner to drag a sometimes reluctant Chamberlain and Cabinet into armed conflict, the significance of the war in the

wider context of the scramble for Africa, have all been authoritatively and exhaustively researched.2 Similarly, the problems that the war created for the struggling, fratricidal Liberal Party have received some, lesser, attention.3 There remains one very important gap, that of the working-class reaction to this imperialistic episode.