A Conversation for A Visit to Dachau - UG

Britain Did Not Invent Concentration Camps

Post 1

Max Muir

It is saddening to once again read the claim that the British invented concentration camps. Of course, we used them, in the Second Anglo-Boer War 1899 - 2001, and this marks the first use
of the phrase "concentration camp" in the English language;
however, this was not the first time concentration camps were used.

They were used in Cuba, in 1896, for example, by the colonial
Spanish, about four years before their use by the British in
South Africa and the US in The Phillipines.

You can read about the Spanish camps here:


or Google for the word "reconcentrado". The Spanish called their
policy "reconcentrado policy" and the camps and the civilians in them
were called "reconcentrados". It was a terrible and lethal mistake,
whick killed tens of thousands of people; perhaps a hundred thousand
people, so this is not a minor incident.

The prefix "re" in Spanish isn't used the same as the
prefix "re" in English, it's often used as an amplifier
rather than an indication that something was done a second time.

Unfortunately two Liberal MPs, speaking in Parliament, described
the Spanish camps as "concentration camps" [Hansard XC, March 1
1901], and most people interpret this as meaning the British
invented concentration camps (all of them).

The Spanish camps imprisoned civilians, and it is pretty clear from
the description of the Spanish camps given by Senator Redfield Proctor in his speech "Concentration Camps of Cuba 1895-1898" that
the Spanish camps are concentration camps. Barbed wire, guard
towers, sentries, neglected civilian inmates, centralization around
rail junctions, and massive mortality due to disease and
starvation being typical features of concentration camps. Proctor's
description is recorded in Clara Barton's book THE RED CROSS, page

As far as I can tell the claim the British invented concentration
camps - a claim which the BBC website has repeated several times -
comes originally from Dr. Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister -
see Patrick Robertson's THE BOOK OF FIRSTS Clarkson N. Potter, Inc.,
New York, 1974, p. 44.

Britain Did Not Invent Concentration Camps

Post 2


The assertion Britain invented concentration camps smacks of racism as it ignores the fact that similar and worse things were done to non-white people prior to this and whereas the horrors of the Boer camps were a result of incompetance and indifference early camps were created to commit genocide including the camps the Turks sent Armenians to die in, in the genocide they still try to deny or the camps some native Americas tribes were sent to die in.

Britain Did Not Invent Concentration Camps

Post 3


ive heard from Irishmen that the brits tied rebels to the mouths of canons and fired them, ive heard that no one in england helped the irish during the potatoe famine - (apolagies to ireland - its the only examples that come to mind easily)etc etc - at the end of the day there is a need for targets to express a point - the sad thing is that sooner or later even if untrue, they become facts - the question that is always on my mind is how many other unquestioned facts and figures shape our opinions and ideas - for those of us who question and like to find out that is perhaps not a major problem, but for those who dont perhaps it is?

Britain Did Not Invent Concentration Camps

Post 4


British troops did tie Hindu mutineers to cannons and fire them at the end of Indian mutiny (so that the blood of different caste would mix) and bury Muslims in pig skins - these acts of spite were carried out during a frenzy of outrage following massacres of British women and children during the uprising. There were appalling atrocities on both sides and each side focused solely on the crimes of the other.

The government did act during the Irish famine but far too little and too late and the delay was largely due to a dogmatic believe in economic non intervention similar to modern monetarism - the myth perpetuated on the Celtic fringes isn't that the government of the time was cruel and allowed large numbers of people to die - it is that they would have behaved any differently to save the urban poor of London or the rural poor of Norfolk. We hear about the Highland clearance but it is not fashionable to note that many rural communities in England went through the same process with commons being enclosed and commoners forced off the land and on the road to become landless labourers, factory fodder or starve. When people in Ireland, Scotland and Wales talk about the wicked English they fail to recognise we suffered under the same Norman yoke

Britain Did Not Invent Concentration Camps

Post 5


not exactly tying irishmen to canons - do seem to remember something about ships of corn sent to Ireland on public subscription.but being rejected on the grounds that animals and not people ate corn.
It is interesting to note how history can be changed just a little over time to suit current or popular views.

Britain Did Not Invent Concentration Camps

Post 6


They also put people to work on projects like road building (often roads to nowhere) in exchange for support but largely left things to "the invisble hand of the market". The Irish equivalent of crofters grew potatoes and raised milch cows and pigs to feed themselves and also grew wheat or barley which they sold to pay the rent to the absentee Anglo-Norman landlord. The landlords and their agents could make more from the land running the as estates using new farming techniques and breeds of animal than they made from tenant crofters. As had happened earlier in the Highland clearances and the Enclosure Acts in England and Wales the landlords forced the commoners off the land; either evicting them when they ate the grain to stave off starvation rather than using it as rent or in some cases giving their tenants tickets on migrant ships to North America.

As the old poem says

They hang the man who steals the goose from the common
but not the man who steals the common from the goose

All this makes me think most of our current cabinet was born 200 years to late

Britain Did Not Invent Concentration Camps

Post 7


i seem to be seeing a bit of that here lately.
One would have thought that in todays age we would have learnt - i wonder if the average person is worse off than ever before - sure he is not starving. but still subject to the whims of the "landlords" without his "Family"

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