There is a more “modern” feel to the colonial wars in Africa after 1900. To begin with, they are on a grander scale. The era of “small wars” appears to be over. It is true that Lugard’s conquest of Northern Nigeria in 1902-3 and the suppression of the 1905-6 rising in German East Africa were both accomplished with small numbers of troops, but the overall thrust of the period is toward the employment of relatively large armies, almost on the scale of European warfare. The Second Boer War, at the very outset of the period, was the biggest war yet waged in Africa, involving some 440,000 British and colonial troops on one side and just under 90,000 Boers on the other.1 (These figures do not include the many Africans employed in both armed and unarmed capacities by the two sides.) In Libya, Italy found herself obliged to commit 100,000 troops to what had been originally thought of as an “easy” conquest. This was nearly three times the number projected by the Italian general staff at the outset of the war in 1911.2 The French, finally in 1914, had 74,800 troops under arms in Morocco, compared with only 3,000 when their invasion of the country had begun in 1907.3
Part of the reason for this is that the technological gap, so prominent a decade earlier, appears to have narrowed somewhat. Again, the Fulani armies faced by Lugard in Northern Nigeria and the various African tribes involved in the Tanganyika rebellion, neither of which possessed much in the way of firearms, are exceptions to this trend. The Boers, of course, are the prime example of the tendency toward better insurgent armament. Their mounted infantrymen were equipped with up-to-date magazine rifles which they knew how to use with devastating effect. The Boers were also one of the few enemies faced by European armies in Africa who possessed artillery. Reminiscent of the Boers were the Herero and Nama peoples of South West Africa, who also fought as
mounted infantry. They were generally as well armed as the Boers and were equally proficient marksmen, as the Germans who fought them in the 1904-7 war were quick to attest.