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War of Words

War of Words: Dutch Pro-Boer Propaganda and the South African War (1899-1902)

Vincent Kuitenbrouwer
Copyright Date: 2012
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  • Book Info
    War of Words
    Book Description:

    Between 1899 and 1902 the Dutch public was captivated by the war raging in South Africa between the Boer republics and the British Empire. Dutch popular opinion was on the side of the Boers: these descendants of the seventeenth-century Dutch settlers were perceived as kinsmen, the most tangible result of which was a flood of propaganda material intended as a counterweight to the British coverage of the war. The author creates a fascinating account of the Dutch pro-Boer movement from its origins in the 1880s to its persistent continuation well into the twentieth century. Kuitenbrouwer offers fascinating insights into the rise of organisations that tried to improve the ties between the Netherlands and South Africa and in that capacity became important links in the international network that distributed propaganda for the Boers. He also demonstrates the persistence of that stereotypes of the Boers and the British in Dutch propaganda materials had lasting effects on nation building both in the Netherlands and South Africa of the period. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1595-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 9-32)

    It was already clear to contemporaries that the Dutch enthusiasm for the Boers during the South African War (1899-1902 ) was to be seen in the context of the history of modern imperialism. In his bookThe Psychology of Jingoism, the journalist J. A. Hobson drew a parallel between the Dutch depiction of the conflict and the situation in Great Britain, where he argued that the public had been manipulated by a small group of South African capitalists and mining magnates. Sneering at jingo propagandists, he wrote that:

    [they] must admit that it is likely that the Dutch nation in...


    • CHAPTER 1 ‘New Holland’ in South Africa? Building a bridgehead between the Netherlands and the Boer republics
      (pp. 35-64)

      Historians agree that several groups in the Netherlands suddenly (re-) discovered the Boers after the Transvaal War (1880-1881). Drawing on ideas of racial kinship, orstamverwantschap, there was much sympathy and enthusiasm for the so-called ‘cousins in South Africa’, which were expressed in many ways. The meaning of the pro-Boer movement, however, is subject to discussion, which is a reflection of its complex nature. On the one hand it can be argued that the Boers served as an example to people in the Netherlands, who took pride in their heroic struggle and saw it as a sign that the Dutch...

    • CHAPTER 2 ‘Blacks, Boers and British’: South Africa in Dutch literature
      (pp. 65-102)

      The (re-)discovery of the Boers by the Dutch public at the end of the nineteenth century was accompanied by a great increase in the number of publications about South Africa that appeared in the Netherlands.¹ Many authors from that time were well aware that they stood in a long literary tradition dating back to the journal that Jan van Riebeeck kept after landing at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652.² But this had been quite different during the greatest part of the century. After the handover of the Cape Colony to the British in 1806, the production of books...

  5. PART II WAR OF WORDS (1899-1902)

    • CHAPTER 3 A ‘factory of lies’? The lines of communication of the Boers and their supporters
      (pp. 105-142)

      In the early evening of 4 April 1900, a train carrying the Prince of Wales arrived in Brussels. At the station, a young man jumped on the footboard of the prince’s car and using a revolver fired two shots into it before he was arrested. Nobody was hurt. The next day,The Timesreported that the assailant had declared that ‘he wanted to kill the Prince of Wales because his Royal Highness had caused thousands of men to be slaughtered in South Africa’. The editors therefore argued that the attack was incited by the pro-Boer propaganda campaign on the continent,...

    • CHAPTER 4 ‘A campaign of the pen’: The Dutch pro-Boer organisations
      (pp. 143-178)

      When the South African War started in October 1899, a wave of pro-Boer enthusiasm rippled through the Netherlands, greater than ever before and, for a while, support for the embattled republics dominated public life. In November 1899, Amsterdam was all abuzz with false rumours that the Boers had defeated the British army. At times, people even went out into the streets to celebrate this ‘victory’, infecting others with their enthusiasm. On one occasion, a huge crowd gathered at the Rembrandtplein for a spontaneous celebration: flags of the Boer republics were everywhere and the Transvaal anthem was sung heartily.¹ Although the...

    • Chapter 5 ‘Dum-dums of public opinion’: Pro-Boer propaganda, October 1899-June 1900
      (pp. 179-214)

      The public outcry against the South African War is generally seen as the climax of the pro-Boer movement in the Netherlands. The struggle by the Transvaal and the OFS against the British Empire was immortalised on countless pages and in many genres. Historians tend to see this dazzling amount of source material as the result of a unique and temporary phenomenon in Dutch history during which public opinion was captured by a form of mass hysteria.¹ Literary scholars also have trouble interpreting the enormous wave of propaganda that flooded the Netherlands during the war. Writing in the 1910s, the Afrikaner...

    • CHAPTER 6 ‘All will be well!’ Pro-Boer propaganda, June 1900-June 1902
      (pp. 215-252)

      Early in 1902, the Dutch-born P. J. Kloppers, who had been a teacher in the Transvaal and was deported back to the Netherlands by the British, published a volume of stories about his experiences during the South African War. The book had the stirring title:Alles zal rech kom!(All will be well), a reference to the famous words of the former president of the OFS, J. H. Brand.¹ These words were quite popular amongst pro-Boers between 1899 and 1902 and provided a glimpse of hope at a time when the future of the republics looked increasingly grim. Kloppers did...


    • CHAPTER 7 ‘Whoever wants to create a future for himself cannot lose sight of the past’: Willem Leyds and Afrikaner nationalism
      (pp. 255-284)

      On 14 July 1904, Paul Kruger, the former president of the Transvaal, died in exile in the spa town of Clemens, Switzerland. His death can be seen as the symbolic end of the era of Boer independence after both the SAR and the OFS had been added to the British Empire. This was not the only way in which contemporaries interpreted the situation in South Africa, however. Despite the fact that they were officially citizens of the British Empire, there remained hope that the white Dutch-speaking inhabitants of South Africa would be able to unite and so become politically and...

    • CHAPTER 8 From stamverwantschap to anti-apartheid: the significance of the pro-Boer movement in the Netherlands
      (pp. 285-306)

      In January 1984, the century-old library of the NZAV housed on the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam was stormed by anti-apartheid activists. They broke into the premises and threw part of the library, which includes an important collection of historical Africana and the archives of the society, into the water of the canal and sprayed the reading rooms with paint. This was one of the most radical actions undertaken by the Dutch anti-apartheid movement, which tried to break off all ties – including cultural – between the Netherlands and South Africa, where white supremacy rule continued. At the time, the NZAV was one of...

  7. Abbreviations
    (pp. 307-308)
  8. Notes
    (pp. 309-376)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 377-394)
  10. Index of names
    (pp. 395-400)
  11. Index of subjects
    (pp. 401-408)