Concentration Camps

Concentration Camps
   Before their use as the internment and death camps built by Nazi Germany starting in 1933, concentration camp was a term coined by Lord Kitchener for internment centers developed as a counter to Boer guerrilla tactics in the final stages of the
   Second Boer War.
   Kitchener attacked the very means of the Boers’ sustenance by destroying their farms and livestock and herded Boer women and children, along with their black African laborers, into internment facilities. As a consequence of inadequate medical and sanitary standards, the camps were swept by disease and their populations devastated. A report later calculated that more than 27,000 Boers, 22,000 of whom were children, and some 14,000 black Africans perished in the camps. In 1900, Salisbury’s government had won reelection in the “khaki election,” partly on the back of popular enthusiasm for recent victories in South Africa. Now, Liberal Party and Socialist domestic critics of the war attacked the Conservative government’s prosecution of the war as “barbaric,” and the government itself felt mounting humiliation at its apparent inability to extract a Boer surrender. Although Kitchener first used the term, he did not initiate the method. Reconcentration camps, as they were called, were used by Spain in Cuba during the rebellions of the 1860s and 1890s. In the latter instance, General Valeriano Weyler relocated 300,000 Cuba civilians sympathetic to the rebels. Here, too, thousands perished of hunger and disease. Liberals back in Spain denounced the policy, and the American press had additional outrage to justify the belligerent stand that ultimately led to the Spanish-American War.
    Farwell, Byron. The Great-Anglo-Boer War. New York: Norton, 1990;
    Fremont-Barnes, Gregory. Th e Boer War, 1899-1902. Oxford: Osprey, 2003.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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