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Southern Africa had been shared between British colonies and republics of Dutch-Afrikaner settlers also known as the Boers since its acquisition by Britain at the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars Throughout the 19th century these two inhabitants maintained a strained relationship and the question of the retention of total sovereignty became increasingly prevalent as the 20th century approached The Boers and the British had already fought a war in 1880 that provided no answer to the question however the discovery of both gold and diamonds after this conflict intensified the already tense relationship between the two governing powers Furthermore British imperial ambition and Afrikaner nationalism took tensions to breaking point and in 1899 the Boers attacked the British in order to forestall what they believed as an imminent British invasion British imperialism was as was imperialism itself experiencing a decline as the 20th century neared and Afrikaner nationalism was just beginning to emerge as a widely accepted ideology in South Africa This decline of traditional imperialism and emergence of nationalism serves to clearly demonstrate the shift in both traditional relationships and ideals that was so characteristic of the world in 1900 As a Commonwealth nation the Australian colonies offered troops to the British Empire At least 12 000 Australians served in contingents formed by the six Australian colonies prior to 1901 with approximately one third enlisting again with the new Australian Commonwealth Moreover many more joined British or South African colonial units in South Africa At least 600 Australians died in the Boer War roughly half from disease and half in active service The Boer War also known as the Boer Insurrection and the Second Anglo-Boer War came about largely as a result of the clash between two differing political ideologies British imperialism and Afrikaner nationalism On one hand Britain sought the unification of South Africa under the British flag and on the other hand the two Boer republics the
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