The second Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 – often referred to as the South African War – is perhaps the most difficult of all the British imperial conflicts to understand. While there were comparatively few casualties among the combatants on either the British or Boer side,1 it has nevertheless been regarded as South Africa’s ‘Great War’.2 The historical importance of the war and its legacy continue to be highly contested and have been the subject of much discussion, at both an academic and popular level.3 On the one hand, there are tales of heroism and of a dogged determination by the Boer commandos against their mighty foe;4 on the other hand, there are recent studies of the effects of the war on the African population.5 Since the war played such a key role in the formation of the identities which have shaped the course of South Africa through the twentieth century, interpretations have always been highly charged. For instance, from the very beginning of the war, the popular rhetoric of chivalry and of the ‘gentlemanly’6 war rubbed up against the far more ambiguous reality of cruelty, disease and hardship exacerbated by the scorched earth policy of Lord Herbert Kitchener (1850-1916) and Lord Frederick Roberts (1832-1914). Similarly, the enforced internment of displaced people, mainly women and children, in ‘concentration camps’ was the subject of much discussion in the British press during the war itself, where the rightness of British colonial policy was questioned.7 Because of this profound effect on the civilian population, both black and Boer, it is possible to see the South African War as the first ‘total war’ in modern history.8