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Hughes Henry, Adam: Boer war

Hughes Henry, Adam

Australian nationalism and the lost lessons of the Boer War‘, Journal of the Australian War Memorial, 34, June 2001

In the jingoism of the time [of the Boer War] can be seen the paradoxical nature of Australian nationalism. Although the five mainland colonies plus Tasmania were in the process of joining together into one nation state, when war began in South Africa support for Britain was unequivocal across Australia. Australians who already had self-government as colonies since 1850, and wished for nationhood, also wanted to support the Empire as part of the “imperial family”. The values of Britain were not considered alien to Australia, they were ours too. The strength of “blood and cultural” ties also produced a reflected pride of association which meant that we were eager to prove our worth on the battlefield fighting for the Empire.

As far as our press was concerned, the war itself demonstrated our brave and noble type, our pragmatic self-reliance, and our fighting spirit. It was the war where the “Bushman Soldier” would be elevated to mythical status for his bush craft, fighting skills, and personification of the “real” Australian spirit, in what must be seen as the forerunner of the brave and noble “Digger” of the First World War.