1st Edition

The 'Valiant Englishman' Christopher Bethell, Montshiwa’s Barolong and the Bechuanaland Wars, 1878–1886

By Andrew Manson Copyright 2023
    122 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book describes the career of an English aristocrat, Christopher Bethell, who arrives in southern Africa in 1878 as the classic "remittance" man, despatched to the colonies to avoid a scandal at home. Bethell, an intelligence officer and later, a border agent, is the protagonist who facilitated the acquisition of arms for Montshiwa's Ratshidi-Barolong to resist the depredations of freebooters, mercenaries based mostly in the Transvaal. In his alliance with Kgosi Montshiwa Tawana, Bethell identifies with Kgosi Montshiwa’s struggle to maintain political independence and economic security. The alliance was further cemented by Bethell’s marriage to a Morolong woman Tepo Boapile – an unusual occurrence in nineteenth century southern Africa. Surrounded by aggressive freebooters from across their eastern border with the Transvaal and the ambiguous forces of colonial advancement from the Cape colony and Britain, Montshiwa and Bethell form an unlikely but enduring relationship aimed at safeguarding Rolong interests. As the Bechuanaland Wars of the early to mid-1880s intensify in brutality Montshiwa and his Chief of Staff, Christopher Bethell are forced to desperate measures to defend the Rolong and avoid outright dispossession. Bethell’s demise is the trigger for firm British imperial intervention, the securing of the Road to the North and events that will determine the fate of Africans in south and central Africa.

    The book is a reminder that, in the author’s words, "past relations between South Africa’s different races were characterised as much by collusion and collaboration as they were by hostility, friction and dissent."

    1. Setting the Scene: ‘Bundled off to the Cape’  2. The Barolong and Crisis in the Cis-Molopo  3. Bethell with the Ratshidi-Barolong, 1879–1880  4. The Looming Misery: The First Anglo-Boer War, 1880–1881  5. The Freebooters in Bechuanaland Wars  6. The First Siege of Mafikeng, January-October 1882  7. ‘Canon’s Mouth’: Surrender and a Peace Treaty  8. The Boer Republic of Goshen  9. The Northern Batswana Alliance  10. Christopher Bethell’s Marriage and Kgosi Montshiwa, 1883–1884  11. Reverend John Mackenzie: Towards British Protection  12. Ntwa ya Tigele:The Battle of Tigele, 30 July 1884  13. The Consequences of Bethell’s Death  14. Establishing a Crown Colony: The Warren Expedition of 1885  15. Bethell’s Death in Historical Context  16. The ‘Valiant Englishman’ 


    Andrew Manson is research Fellow at University of South Africa. Previously he was a Research Professor in the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences at North West University.