This guide provides a brief overview of Anglo-Boer War records held at The National Archives. The guidance refers mainly to the Second Boer War, 1899-1902, better known as the South African War, but much of the guidance could also be applied to records of the First Boer War, 1880-1881. The advice here could also help you with research into other colonial conflicts of the late 19th century.
These are the records of central government, including all branches of the military. You’ll get a sense of the sort of records we hold and links to guides with more details and advice on how to find the records in our collection, including whether records are available online.
How the records are arranged
The original records are arranged at The National Archives by the government departments that created them. Each department’s collection of records is identified by a department code. Three of the most significant for Boer War research are:
Numerous other government departments may have transferred related records to The National Archives. You will find details for many of them in the guides which we provide links to below.
How to search for records
Before you begin a search you should see if there is a guide to the specific type of records you are looking for – this guide is designed to help you to do that. Each guide listed below contains the links and advice you will need to search a specific set of records.
Each guide will indicate whether records have been made available online (charges usually apply). The online copies are accessed either directly from our website or from the websites of our licensed partners, including Ancestry and Findmypast.
Some records have no online version and to see these you will need to consult them at our building in Kew or pay for copies to be made and sent to you. The search for records held at Kew begins by using keywords and dates to search our online catalogue. The catalogue contains short descriptions of the records and a document reference for each – you will need the document reference to see the record itself or to request copies. Successful keyword searching may mean trying a number of different search terms. You should note that the terms ‘South African War’, ‘Boer War’ or ‘Anglo-Boer War’ are all used in the catalogue, and the different search terms will return different sets of results.
For more guidance on searching or browsing our catalogue, visit our Discovery help pages.
Records of individuals
Government policy and strategy, international relations and the aftermath of the war
Our guide to Foreign Office general correspondence 1891-1905 gives guidance on searching for international reactions to the war. Records can be found by keyword searches, the names Transvaal, South African Republic, Orange Free State and Orange River Colony all appear in our catalogue. Guidance on finding treaties can be found here.
For guidance on finding records of British colonial administrations affected by the war use our guide to records of colonies and dependencies from 1782 and for advice on records held in other archives see our guide to empire and commonwealth records held by other archives.
Correspondence of the High Commission for South Africa is in series CO 417 and includes correspondence received from the British South Africa Company.
Government Gazettes of the British South Africa company are in CO 455, Ordinances passed by them are in series CO 3.
Browse Discovery for records of the Cabinet Office for the period around and during the Second Boer War for documents concerning decisions and discussions before, during, and after the war in record series CAB 37.
Records in other archives and organisations