In his well-documented book, The Boer War, Thomas Pakenham says this about the causes of the conflict: “First there is this golden thread running through the narrative, a thread woven by the ‘gold bugs,’ the Rand millionaires who controlled the richest gold mines in the world. It has been hitherto assumed by historians that none of the ‘gold bugs’ was directly concerned in making the war…. I have found evidence of an infernal alliance between Sir Alfred Milner, the High Commissioner, and the firm of Wernher-Beit, the dominant Rand mining house. It was this alliance, I believe, that gave Milner the strength to precipitate the war.”
The outcome was inevitable. Britain was the world’s greatest military power and, in the course of the three-year struggle, put 448 000 troops in the field (as many as the US had in Vietnam and Napoleon employed in Russia in 1812), this against 87000 Boers.
It was in this conflict that the Boers introduced modern guerilla warfare. To counter this Kitchener unleashed his policy of devastation, aimed at starving the Boer commandos out, at creating a situation where hunger would force them to surrender. It was a new strategy which would later be known as the “scorched earth” policy of the Russian armies in World War Two.