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Qwiz5 Quizbowl Essentials: The Boer War

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

The (Second) Boer War** was fought from 1899-1902 in present day South Africa. The war was fought between Britain (who controlled the Cape Colony) and the Dutch-descendant Boers (who controlled the territories of Transvaal and Orange Free State). Despite initial victories by the Boers, the British ultimately triumphed, leading to their control of South Africa.

** There were actually two conflicts known as the "Boer War". This entry specifically deals with the Second Boer War (1899-1902), as that is a much more common quizbowl topic than the First Boer War (1880-1881).

Map of important battles of the boer war. Part of the Qwiz5 series by Qwiz Quizbowl Camp, written to help quiz bowl teams power more tossups!

By analyzing questions, you can see patterns emerge, patterns that will help you answer more tossups. Qwiz5 is all about those patterns. In each installment of Qwiz5, we take an answer line and look at its five most common clues. Here we explore five clues that will help you answer a tossup on "The Boer War"


In December of 1895, British statesman Leander Starr Jameson led an unsuccessful raid from British controlled Cape Colony into the Boer controlled Transvaal in hopes of sparking an uprising of British uitlanders (foreigners) living in the Transvaal against the Boer government of Paul Kruger. Following the raid’s failure, German Kaiser Wilhelm II sent a congratulatory telegram to Kruger (the so-called Kruger Telegram) leading to heightened tensions between the British and the Boers and ultimately leading to the Second Boer War.


The British suffered three devastating losses to the Boers in the span of a week, most notable at the Battle of Colenso. This so-called “Black Week” led to the firing of British military commander Redver Bullers who was replaced by Lord Roberts.


Herbert Kitchener was the British military commander during the Second Boer War who succeeded Lord Roberts. He is known for his brutal scorched earth tactics as well as his use of barbed wire and concentration camps to control Boer civilians. Those concentration camps were heavily criticized by British reformer Emily Hobhouse who formed the Fawcett Commission to investigate the conditions and in the disease-ridden camps.


Mafeking was (along with Ladysmith and Kimberley) one of the three major siege battles of the Second Boer War. His leadership during the siege made a national hero of British commander Robert Baden-Powell who later went on to fame as the founder of the Boy Scouts.


The 1902 Treaty of Vereeniging ended the Second Boer War. The treaty ceded control of the previously Boer territories of Transvaal and Orange Free State to the British.


Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:

* This site from the BBC details the Boer Wars and examines them in the context of the larger history of South Africa.

* This site details Kitchener’s Boer concentration camps, including the story of Lizzie van Zyl whose treatment in the camps was the focus of much of Emily Hobhouse’s writings.

* The Brief History Podcast did an episode that tells the story of both Boer Wars. Listen here:

* This short video is a nice summary of the Boer Wars:


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