Advertising Flags For Marking Troop Movements
Fine large and decorative map depicting the theater of the Second Boer War in South Africa.
The present large and detailed map, produced during the height of the conflict, was intended to be a guide by which the public could follow the action as they read about events in the newspapers. In fact, an advertisement, located at the bottom of the map, notes that one could also purchase small flag pieces that could be placed on the map to mark the operations of the opposing armies. The map was highly praised in The London Quarterly Review, which described it as "a specimen of their [W. & A.K. Johnson's] best workmanship, as clear and full as anyone could wish".
While no date of publication appears on the map itself, the work can be definitively dated as being printed in the early months of 1900, owing to the appearance of an advertisement for the map in Library World, vol. II, no.22 (April 1900).
The Second Boer War (1899-1902) was the dominant event that occupied the British Empire at the dawn of the 20th-century. In essence, the conflict was an effort on the part of the Afrikaners (the settlers of Dutch ancestry, often called 'Boers', meaning 'farmers') to defend their quasi-independent republics against the encroachment of British power.
Although the Afrikaners had traditionally settled around the Cape of Good Hope, in order to preserve their independence from the British, in the 1830s, they embarked on the 'Great Trek' into the interior of South Africa. As shown on the map, they founded the South African Republic, better known as the Transvaal (1852), and the Orange Free State (1854). They preserved their autonomy until the 1870s, when the discovery of gold near Johannesburg caused the British to lay claim the area. Tensions resulted in the First Boer War (1880-81), in which the Afrikaners prevailed, so maintaining their republics. However, tensions between the Afrikaners and the British intensified over the coming years.
The Second Boer war began in October 1899, when the Afrikaners began to mount preemptive strikes into neighboring British territories such as the eastern Cape Colony and Natal. Notably, the Afrikaners seized the British garrisons of Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley. They also scored tactical victories over the British at Colenso, Magersfontein and Spion Kop. All important locations are detailed on the map, including the insets of Kimberley, Cape Town, Pretoria, Northern Natal and Durban.
The British, shocked by their early defeats, decided to respond with overwhelming force. Troops were called in from all across the British Empire, forming an army that eventually numbered 500,000. This juggernaut was faced by only 88,000 Afrikaner fighters.
By the time that this map was issued in the early spring of 1900, the British commander, Lord Roberts, had regained control of the British territories and was mounting a massive invasion of the Transvaal. Indeed, by June 1900, the British would take the Afrikaners' capital of Pretoria. However, the Afrikaner resistance proved to be very brave and stubborn and it would be anther two years before the British would decisively win the war.