Actually, there were two Boer Wars. There was a short one in 1880 and a longer, bloodier, one 20 years later.
The Boer Wars took place in Africa.
The Boer Wars were connected to something called "Colonialism." That means if you want to understand the Boer Wars, you must first understand what Colonialism was. Is.
The little movie "Stuff" sort of explains it. First, you have stuff in your own country which you use and abuse until it is mostly gone; then you begin to think of the stuff that is located in OTHER countries as if it were yours and then you just go get it at will, as if that country were just your warehouse. This works best when you have guns and the other people only have spears.
And so it came to pass, over time, that several countries began to visit Africa and draw boundary lines and start carting the stuff back home. One of those Colonizers was NOT the USA, I hasten to add. Not in Africa. That I know of. Later the USA played the popular "Cold War Bidding-For-Temporary-Fair-Weather-Friends Game," but that was after the Boer Wars.
Many of the boundary lines for countries in Africa got drawn by these colonizing countries. Before that, all of the people on the African continent were just one big family and sort of just milled around as they pleased, loving and helping their brothers and sisters as they pleased, building pyramids and weaving baskets and like that. With the Europeans came boundary lines. And plantations. Mustn't forget plantations. And illegal immigration - don't forget the squatter-farmers. "Boer," incidentally, is the Afrikaans word for "farmer."
Well, the point is that many of these boundary lines between African countries have remained, even though many of the names of cities and countries have been Africanized and the colonialists pretty much bounced from power. Other words you should know:
Vaal. This is a river in South Africa. Land above that river is the Transvaal. There was a British colony called Transvaal, and other things were and are also called Transvaal. Even the South African Republic is often called the Transvaal Republic.
The first Anglo-Boer war (1880-1881) was between the Boers (descendants of earlier Dutch "settlers") and the British, who were also settled there to take stuff. This short first war resulted in the Boers winning their independence from the British in that area, and being allowed to keep their Dutch/Boer stuff.
Sadly (for the colonialists, at least) the African people who lived in the area didn't agree that all the stuff belonged to the newcomers. Quite the opposite, you might say.
Okay, the SECOND Anglo-Boer War, the one that is in the movies and history books, lasted from 1899 to 1902 and was very very bloody and contentious, and didn't end NEARLY as well for the Dutch folk. Farmers. Boers. Whatever. Their "Boer Republics" suddenly became known as "British Colonies." British troops were brought in from other colonies and possessions. The British suffered great loss from disease, as they were largely untrained and unaccustomed to the climate and terrain, but they did eventually squash the semi-huns after a few years. But the bloodletting was fearful and so were the British concentration camps for the Boers, but we'll save that story for another post.
Trivia: Afrikaans still is spoken and is in fact one of the eleven official languages of South Africa today. If you would like to try your hand at reading Afrikaans, my friend Frosty Girl posted in that language in her last blog entry.