British Empire Books

The South African War: 1899 - 1902

Contributed by Prof. Richard Norton

AuthorBill Nasson

Though you wouldn't believe it from the rather lurid cover, Bill Nasson is a Professor of History at Cape Town and a most serious scholar. U.S. readers (and perhaps others) will find that South African English has its own distinct rhythm and flow. It can take a little getting used to, but if one sticks with the book, the acclimation period is brief.

Nasson covers the entire war, but comes at it more from a social-political aspect than a military one. He is remarkably even-handed in his analysis -- so much so that those readers with a bias may find the work hard to accept. Nasson does cover battles and provides some rudimentary maps, but there is little here. And surprisingly so, little for the general historian. Nasson cites Parkenham's classic "The Boer War" in almost each of his chapters.

What Nasson does very well is explore why the war came about and why the war went the way it did. The leadership of both Boers and British are shown to be responsible for the brutal and protracted nature of the conflict. Along the way Nasson explodes several commonly held perceptions of the war.

Would I buy it? Not unless I was really interested in the Boer War. I'd get Packenham's book instead. But if this was an area of major personal interest and I could afford the price, I would consider adding the work to my collection.

Buy this book at: Amazon

Armed Forces | Art and Culture | Articles | Biographies | Colonies | Discussion | Glossary | Home | Library | Links | Map Room | Sources and Media | Science and Technology | Search | Student Zone | Timelines | TV & Film | Wargames

by Stephen Luscombe