What the Boers looked like

Dan Jacobson

  • To the Bitter End: A Photographic History of the Boer War 1899-1902 by Emanoel Lee
    Viking, 226 pp, £12.95, September 1985, ISBN 0 670 80143 7

Now that Dr Lee has produced a pictorial history of the Anglo-Boer War, one wonders why no one had thought of doing so before. This, of course, is how we are always inclined to greet an unusually good idea. The text accompanying the photographs informs us that the war coincided almost precisely with the birth of photography as a popular hobby. Hostilities between Britain and the Boer republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State broke out just two years after George Eastman of Rochester, New York, had produced the Folding Pocket Kodak, the first camera to use ‘cartridge film’. In 1900 Eastman brought out the Brownie, which had originally been intended for the children’s market. By the end of the war more than two hundred thousand of these two cameras had been sold to markets outside the United States. Of the almost half-million British and Colonial troops who served in South Africa, Dr Lee estimates that several thousand must have brought a camera with them. In addition, numbers of professional photographers, following in the footsteps of those who had taken their cameras to the battlefields of the Crimea and the American Civil War, got to work.

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