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Barbed-Wire ImperialismBritain's Empire of Camps, 1876-1903$
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Aidan Forth

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520293960

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520293960.001.0001

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“A System Steadily Perfected”

“A System Steadily Perfected”

Camp Reform and the “New Geniuses from India,” 1901–1903

(p.186) Chapter 7 “A System Steadily Perfected”
Barbed-Wire Imperialism

Aidan Forth

University of California Press

In an effort to reduce mortality rates from epidemic disease, the British government engaged in a campaign to reform the Anglo-Boer War concentration camps. Officials like Alfred Milner and Joseph Chamberlain actively mobilized imperial Britain’s long history of encampment and solicited expertise from the fields of metropolitan welfare and social investigation to appoint a women’s committee (led by Millicent Fawcett) to visit the camps and recommend reforms. Chamberlain also contacted the India Office and ultimately imported Colonels Samuel J. Thomson and James S. Wilkins, who had analogous inter-imperial experience managing plague and famine camps in India. Drawing from lessons synthesized in India, these “imperial careerists” introduced stricter discipline and new measures like barbed-wire quarantine wards and forced hospitalization, which ultimately reduced camp mortality. New camps in Cape Colony and Natal constructed by Wilkins and Thomson refined camp management to a state of perfection and helped vindicate concentration camps as a legitimate technology of imperial statecraft and emergency relief.

Keywords:   Reform, Social investigation, Metropolitan welfare, Millicent Fawcett, Samuel J. Thomson, James S. Wilkins, Inter-imperial, Imperial careerist, Emergency relief

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