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British Widows of the South African War and the Origins of War Widows’ Pensions

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posted on 2017-10-04, 11:42 authored by Eliza L. Riedi
The South African War of 1899–1902 cost the lives of 22,000 British and colonial soldiers and created almost 5,000 British war widows. It was in this context that the first state pensions for the widows of rank and file soldiers were introduced in 1901. Triggered by unexpectedly high casualty rates and widespread dissatisfaction with charitable provision, the introduction of state pensions also reflected changing public attitudes towards soldiers and their dependants in the context of an imperial war. Dismissed in the historiography as insignificant because of its low rates and restrictive eligibility clauses, the 1901 scheme in fact delivered pensions to the majority of war widows and made the Edwardian state their most important source of financial support. This article, after discussing the social and political context in which widows’ pensions were developed, analyses the economics of the scheme and how key eligibility rules were formulated, before investigating significant changes in the scheme to 1920, the point at which Boer War widows were finally granted full maintenance. Strongly influenced by the practices of Victorian armed forces charities and by contemporary ideologies of gender and class, the South African War pension regulations created precedents which would continue to shape pensions for military widows to the end of the twentieth century.

History

Citation

Twentieth Century British History, 2017, in press

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, ARTS AND HUMANITIES/School of History

Version

  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Twentieth Century British History

Publisher

Oxford University Press (OUP)

issn

0955-2359

eissn

1477-4674

Acceptance date

2017-04-13

Copyright date

2017

Available date

2019-09-23

Publisher version

https://academic.oup.com/tcbh/article/doi/10.1093/tcbh/hwx051/4210444/British-Widows-of-the-South-African-War-and-the

Notes

The file associated with this record is under embargo until 24 months after publication, in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy. The full text may be available through the publisher links provided above.

Language

en

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