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Jacob Rees-Mogg says that "you've got to understand the history" before condemning the British concentration camps during the Boer War. Unfortunately, he doesn't. So here's a fact-check. [THREAD] 1/10 bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-pol…
2. First, some background. From 1899 to 1901, roughly 48,000 people died in British concentration camps in South Africa. Of the 28,000 white deaths, 22,000 were children under 16. Over 4,000 were women. The 20,000 Black deaths were less clearly recorded, but c.80% were children.
3. The camps killed about 10% of the total white population & perhaps a quarter of Boer women and children. Most died of diseases like typhoid, their resistance weakened by malnutrition. This is Lizze Van Zyl, whose food rations were cut to put pressure on her father to surrender
4. Rees-Mogg blames misplaced humanitarianism. "People were taken there", he says, "so that they could be fed, because the farmers were away fighting the Boer War". This is total nonsense.They were moved there so that the British could burn their farms & smoke out the guerrillas.
5. The camps were a military tactic, not a humanitarian exercise: a weapon in a war for gold. Lord Kitchener called them a "method of limiting the endurance of the guerrillas". "They do not like their women being brought in & I think it has made them more anxious for peace".
6. Rees-Mogg says we mustn't make judgements "from the comfort of 2019". We don't have to. Emily Hobhouse, who exposed the camps at the time, accused Kitchener of "a degradation both to the office & the manhood of your soldiers. I feel ashamed to own you as a fellow-countryman."
7. Hobhouse told Lord Milner that his "brutal orders" were “staining ... the reputation of England”. Milner himself admitted privately that “the enormous mortality was not incidental" but was “a condemnation of the camp system. The whole thing, I now think, has been a mistake."
8. The Liberal Leader, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, publicly condemned the camps, accusing British forces of "methods of barbarism". The govt set up a Commission of Inquiry headed by the suffrage campaigner Millicent Fawcett. People of conscience knew this was wrong at the time.
9. The death rate in Glasgow is irrelevant - except as a reminder of how appalling life was under the economic system Rees-Mogg favours. The proper comparison is with the death rate in SA if the camps had not existed. A quarter of women & children dead in 3 years? I think not.
10. As Rees-Mogg demonstrates, understanding the past requires more than an outdated wardrobe & a drawl. Britain's concentration camps were not a mercy mission: they were an instrument of war that left tens of thousands of civilians dead. We should remember them with shame.[ENDS]
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