As an amateur historian it is always difficult to come up with something new to write about. In grad school they pound you into pulp until it is crystal clear.
“Has it been written about in any way?”
“Then find a new topic.”
Like a lot of people, historians have favorite time periods that struck them. At some point they saw, read, watched, or experienced something that made them passionate about “history.” If you’re like me (and a lot of people out there) that happens to be World War II.
Finding a topic for your thesis paper on World War II is literally like finding a needle in a haystack. Just go to Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com and search for it. Where do you start? It’s all so interesting. Hundreds upon hundreds of books on anything you ever wanted to know about World War II.
Erwin Rommel. One of my favorite generals of all time. Probably hundreds of books written on him alone. Amazon shows me 101 pages of results.
Scratch that for a topic.
Somewhere tucked away in my brain was the story of something happening in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century. The Dutch Boers vs. the British. OK. Let’s investigate that more. Amazingly, that too has been written about a lot. Then I came across a book on Google Scholar that talked about Americans who traveled over to South Africa to fight in this interesting and almost forgotten conflict. The Second Boer War. I found my topic. I would later find that over 300 American men volunteered to help a sister Republic fight against British tyranny between 1899 -1902.
In the next few posts I hope to take pieces of my research and tell the story of these American men that chose to leave the Unites States and travel to South Africa to fight alongside the Dutch Boers. Not everyone fought for the Boers though. A few extraordinary men sided with the British as well. I will get to them later. Overall, it’s a compelling story of a brave, select, group of individuals that acted on their own. It was the adventure of a lifetime.
Why did they chose to fight?
Those crazy adventurers. Money, glory, and warfare. That was what they sought. Surprisingly, no. In researching these men I found it particularly interesting that not one American man received pay on the Boer side. So again the question presents itself. Why? What would posses these men to volunteer in a war that did not involve their country?
Disclaimer: In light of what Medium is doing for writers, I am open to any and all suggestions on how to properly compose a history section, especially on where to put footnotes for sources. Please provide feedback. I would greatly appreciate it.