Bodleian Library logo

Commonwealth and African Studies
Bodleian Library
Contact Information
Search All Online Catalogues

Collection Level Description: Letter of Ithiel Price

Reference: GB 0162 MSS. Afr. s. 2315
Title: Letter of Ithiel Price
Dates of Creation: [1900]
Extent: 17 ff.

Language of Material: eng



Administrative/Biographical History

The South African War, 1899-1902 had its origins in the rivalry between Dutch Afrikaner (Boer) and British settlers in southern Africa which led by the middle of the 19th century to the emergence of four separate colonial territories - Cape Colony and Natal, under British rule, and Orange Free State and the South African Republic (later Transvaal), under Afrikaner control. Despite British refusal to officially recognise the Boer states, and the Boers' unwillingness to join a wider, Cape-governed Federation of South Africa, the four states managed an uneasy co-existence, though it was this basic difference of outlook and politics which was the eventual cause of the war.

From the outset, the co-existence of the two sides was often threatened. A British annexation of the Transvaal in 1877 led to their decisive defeat at the hands of Boer forces at the Battle of Majuba Hill in 1881. There were minor conflicts in the 1880s and 1890s over neighbouring Bechuanaland, and influence over the Ndebele to the north. Gold was discovered in both the Boer republics, increasing their attraction to the British; and it was the perceived mistreatment of British residents in the Transvaal (many of them goldminers) which led to the ill-fated Jameson Raid in 1897. It was an increasing nationalism on both sides, though, which helped spark a declaration of war on 11th October 1899.

It was the Boers who launched the initial offensives - against Mafeking, Kimberley, Natal and Eastern Cape, using Bloemfontein as a focal point, but, after lengthy sieges of Ladysmith, Mafeking, etc., they eventually surrendered their advantage. The British relieved the besieged towns, then took Bloemfontein on 13th March 1900, and Pretoria in June. At this point, the British themselves allowed the Boers to regroup and change tactics, mounting an effective guerilla war. This the British countered by the use of a scorched earth policy, the initiation of a concentration camp system, etc.. Eventually, the Boers were forced to concede defeat and on 31st May 1902 a peace treaty was signed at Vereeniging, removing the independence of the Boer territories.

Scope and Content

Letter from Price in Ladysmith to his friend Daniel Ramsden, giving an account of a Boer raid at Elands Laagte, where Price and his brother ran a hotel and store, their imprisonment and release after being relieved by British troops, their departure for Ladysmith, the ensuing siege of the town and its relief, 1900, with related news cuttings.

Administrative Information

Custodial History

The papers were initially purchased from the Anglo-Boer War Anniversary Sale at Spink and Son, 20th-21st October 1999.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were donated to the library by John Pinfold on 4th November 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

South African War, 1899-1902 | Personal narratives, British

Ladysmith (South Africa) | History | Siege, 1899-1900 | Personal narratives

Price | Ithiel | fl 1900 | store and hotel keeper


Transformation from XML to HTML by Lawrence Mielniczuk
27 March 2012