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Collection Level Description: Letter of General Louis Botha

Reference: GB 0162 MSS. Afr. s. 2307
Title: Letter of General Louis Botha
Dates of Creation: 1902
Extent: 1 ff.

Language of Material: Afrikaans and English

Administrative/Biographical History

General Louis Botha (1862-1919) was born in Natal and brought up on a farm near Vrede in Orange Free State from 1869. He was a volunteer in the successful campaign for the restoration of Dinizulu, son of the Zulu chief Cetewayo, in 1884. He served afterwards as commissioner to delimit farms on Zulu territory assigned to volunteers, then as field-cornet and native commissioner at Vryheid, obtaining Waterval, a farm in Transvaal, during the same period. He mobilised the burgher force against the Jameson Raid, 1895, was a member in the first Transvaal volksraad (parliament) from 1897, and a supporter of P.J. Joubert's liberal stance on uitlander franchise.

At the outbreak of the South African War, 1899-1902, he mustered the commando at Vryheid, fought at the Battle of Dundee, and frustrated an early attempt by the British to relieve Ladysmith, thus avoiding a direct attack on the Afrikaner force led by Joubert. In 1900 he saw action at Tabanyama and Spion Kop, forced the British to retire at Vaalkrantz, and was promoted commandant-general on Joubert's death. After his promotion, he reorganised the commandos, made a last defence of Johannesburg and Pretoria at Doornkop, and was narrowly defeated at Diamond Hill. From June 1900 onwards, he carried out a guerilla campaign, but was forced to surrender at Vereeniging, May 1902, after which the Transvaal became part of the British territory of South Africa.

After visiting England in 1902, he lived mainly at Pretoria, helping found the nationalist organisation Het Volk in 1905. In 1907 he formed a ministry in the Transvaal under the British crown, headed a Transvaal delegation at the Union Convention, 1908-1909, and formed a strong political bond with Jan Christian Smuts. He was the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, 1910-1919, dealing satisfactorily with the questions of Indian immigration and unrest on the Rand. He supported the British during World War One, suppressing a revolt by Dutch South Africans against intervention in the war, 1914-1915 and commanding a successful campaign against German South-West Africa, obtaining the colony's capitulation in 1915. He attended the Versailles Peace Conference with Smuts as South African delegate, 1919.

Scope and Content

Letter, with typescript partial translation, from Botha to Louis, written in London during a tour of European capitals by Boer generals following the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging, 1902. The letter discusses negotiations with Chamberlain about possible changes to the Treaty, etc..

Administrative Information

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The letter was purchased from Argyll Etkin Ltd. on 19th August 1999.

Access Conditions

Bodleian reader's ticket required.

Reproduction Restrictions

No reproduction or publication of personal papers without permission. Contact the library in the first instance.

Further Information

Finding Aids

The library holds a card index of all manuscript collections in its reading room.

Access Points

Botha | Louis | 1862-1919 | South African general and statesman

Chamberlain | Joseph | 1836-1914 | statesman

South African War, 1899-1902 | Diplomatic history

Transformation from XML to HTML by Lawrence Mielniczuk
10 February 2012