Cape to Cairo

This picture is another one playing on one of the great imperial ambitions of the late Victorian era: Having a continuous stretch of British ruled lands from Cairo in North Africa down to the Cape in South Africa. This was one of the goals of the imperial adventurer Cecil Rhodes as he built up colonies in the central and southern region of Africa. However, this image is taken from the time of the Boer War and Sudan campaign. In many ways it might have been used as something of a fillip to improve morale after the disastrous start to the Boer war for the British. This image might have been used to convey a wider and more worthier purpose of the war than to just suppressing Boer farmers in an unseemly grab for their lands and gold. It would also help justify the costs of both of these campaigns as taxes were increased to pay for the military expenditures. This image shows how that, although Punch was essentially a satirical magazine, it could also portray the more mainstream nationalistic attitudes and appetites of the day.

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by Stephen Luscombe