- History and Photographs of the Boer War

Political Cartoons The Boer War in Drawings

In this collection of political cartoons and illustrations, we see the Boers and British portrayed in a satirical manner. In some cartoons the Boers are depicted as heroic defenders of their homeland, in others both the British and the Boers are portrayed as squabbling children. All of these drawings appeared in various magazines during the Boer conflict and give an idea of the public's perception of the war.

The British Giant Subdued by Tiny Boers

Boer Lilliput

This clever cartoon borrows from the famous scene from Gulliver's Travels in which Gulliver the tiny Lilliputians tie down the gigantic Gulliver. Here, Britain is personified by the character of a fat John Bull, one of its national symbols. He is lying on the ground while an army of tiny Boers climb on top of him and bind him with ropes labeled with the names of battles such as Spion Kop and Mafeking. Meanwhile Britain's sword, labeled British Prestige, lies broken on the ground.

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Won't Go Off His Beat

Uncle Sam as Policeman of the World

This cartoon appeared in an American magazine called Puck in 1900 and depicts Uncle Sam as a policeman. A fist fight between John Bull (Britain) and Paul Kruger (leader of the Boers) is going on in the background while two concerned citizens and newspaper publisher John Pulitzer ask Uncle Sam the policeman to intervene in the fight. But Uncle Sam refuses. The caption reads "Won't Go Off his Beat". The meaning conveyed is that the United States was going to mind its own business and stay out of this conflict that had nothing to do with it. The cartoon is interesting in that it is an early depiction of the United States as the world's policeman and hints at its growing power on the world stage; yet at the same time the cartoon captures America's isolationist attitude.

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Reckless Defiance

British and French Imperial Rivalry

Having fought two world wars together as the closest of allies, it is easy to forget that only a few years before Britain and France were bitter rivals for world supremacy and vied with each other to carve up Africa into their colonial empires. More than once, the two colonial powers nearly went to war over now long forgotten territorial disputes in Africa. This cartoon portrays France as a little man defiantly challenging the stalwart British, while hiding behind a bumbling Russian Bear. At the time the Russian Empire was another great rival of Britain.

The caption reads, "You may be able to whip the Boers, but I dare you to tackle the Russian bear." In the background can be seen a battle labeled Transvaal, the region where the Boer war was fought.

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When the Boer War is Over

Britannia's Vision of the Future

I am not sure if this cartoon is intentionally racist or if it is meant to satirize the racist superiority of the British empire. It depicts the British Empire, personified by Britannia, pointing towards the bright and prosperous future that awaits the Boer lands once the war is over. Behind her a wounded Boer farmer and a semi naked African cower submissively. The depiction of the African man is particularly offensive and it since he is depicted as still using a spear even in this bright new future, one has to wonder whether anyone expected that the local indigenous population were going to get anything out of this war except a new set of overlords. Certainly the Boers were no liberals when it came to the Africans; the Boers excluded them from their society completely except when it suited them to round up Africans for forced labor.

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A Real Live Lion

A Cowardly British Lion Runs Away

The British Lion is depicted as running scared back to Pretoria during the Boer War. Little men, probably Boer leaders, hide in the trees with guns, also scared.

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