Abstract

Policymakers and international relations scholars concur that prestige is critical to world politics because states having prestige enjoy greater authority. An examination of how policymakers assess their and other states' prestige, however, reveals that this traditional view of prestige is wrong, for two reasons. First, policymakers do not analyze their own states' prestige, because they feel they already know it. They use their feelings of pride and shame as evidence of their state's prestige. Second, political and psychological incentives encourage policymakers to explain another state's behavior in ways that make it unlikely that states gain prestige. Policymakers systematically discount the prestige of other states; a belief that their state has earned the respect and admiration of others is therefore illusory. Consequently, the justification for costly prestige policies collapses. In other words, states should not chase what they cannot catch. Evidence from the South African War supports this conclusion.

Introduction

The strategic thinker Hans Morgenthau calls prestige an “indispensable element of a rational foreign policy.”1 For Morgenthau, prestige has strategic (means to an end) value because it increases a state's power. In his words, “only foolhardy egocentrics” pursue prestige for its own sake.2 Many scholars agree that states seek prestige because it increases their power.3 Others argue that states also pursue prestige for its intrinsic (end in itself) value.4 The payoff has more to do with vanity than strategy. Whether states seek prestige for reasons of strategy or vanity, political scientists accept as common sense that it is critical to international politics.5

The evidence that states seek international prestige is overwhelming. It is also consistent with the traditional view that prestige has either strategic or intrinsic value. Policymakers must therefore be able to assess their and other states' prestige and be able to evaluate policies aimed at increasing a state's prestige (i.e., prestige policies). This observation generates two puzzles. First, how do policymakers evaluate their state's prestige? Do they conduct research and analysis, rely on diplomatic communications, or engage in extensive debate to make educated guesses about their state's prestige? Second, how do policymakers assess another state's prestige? For example, will Russian, American, and German policymakers reach similar conclusions about British prestige based on similar interpretations of British behavior? Or will they differ in their interpretations? One cannot know if an actor (in this case, the British) will correctly assess its prestige without knowing how observers (the Russians, Americans, and Germans) will interpret British behavior.

I argue that prestige in international politics is an illusion, for two reasons. First, policymakers use their sense of pride or shame as evidence of their state's prestige, as if what they think of their state is also how others think of it. Whereas British failure in the 1996 Olympics led the British to call their athletes members of the “team of shame,” victory in the 2012 Olympics (at massive government expense) led to such expressions of pride that a New York Times reporter wrote that Britain was “focusing obsessively on its triumphs.”6 A British sports historian claimed that this Olympic success was important for British “prestige and soft diplomacy.”7 An extensive literature in psychology and political science finds that rational people use their feelings as evidence for their beliefs.8

Second, political and psychological incentives encourage policymakers to explain other states' behavior in ways that make it unlikely that states gain prestige. If policymakers systematically discount other states' prestige, then their confidence that they have earned the respect and admiration of others is illusory. Gore Vidal captures the psychological reason why policymakers might discount another state's prestige: “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.”9 Policymakers also understand the strategic implications of attributing prestige to another state. Because prestige is relative (and a source of power), the more important prestige is to states in a community, the less likely each will view the others as prestigious. The Chinese minimized Britain's 2016 Olympic accomplishments by highlighting the £387 million the British government spent on its athletics program compared to China's emphasis “on human spirit, respect and friendship [rather] than simply winning titles.”10 China discounted Britain's accomplishments to defend its own prestige.

If states assess prestige as I describe above, then prestige is an illusion. It has neither strategic nor intrinsic value. A state with prestige does not enjoy increased power, and states cannot bask in the admiration of others if others are not admiring. Because the pursuit of prestige for its own sake is not a rational basis for policymaking, I only briefly address its intrinsic value. Instead, I focus on the common and policy-relevant belief that rational actors should pay attention to their prestige because it affects their power in international politics.

Traditional prestige arguments view a concern for prestige as a constant: it will be as important in the future as it was in the past. In contrast, I expect that the more familiar that policymakers are with the psychology and politics of prestige, the less they will worry about their state's prestige. Prestige policies will become anachronisms.

In the first section of this article, I explain what prestige is and discuss traditional approaches to its study. In the second section, I develop my argument for why prestige is an illusion. The third section details four hypotheses and explains why I test them against the case of the 1899–1902 South African War (a.k.a. Boer War).11 The fourth section examines the first puzzle: How did the British evaluate their prestige in that war? The fifth section examines the second puzzle: How did Britain's allies and adversaries assess Britain's prestige? I use the final section to summarize the article's conclusions and to explain its implications for both policy and future research on prestige.

Traditional Arguments for Prestige in International Politics

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, prestige denotes widespread respect and admiration. Scholars emphasize five aspects of prestige. First, it is the collective beliefs of a community that determine what merits respect and admiration.12 Because prestige is a belief about what others believe is prestigious, subjective beliefs can differ from intersubjective ones. Second, prestige is a relational (not a property) concept. Prestige depends on what a community of states (or observers) thinks of a community member (or actor), not on what an actor thinks of itself. Third, prestige is relative.13 It exists in a social hierarchy. Like power, prestige can be zero sum; that is, a state's prestige increases when another state's prestige decreases. Fourth, prestige and status are synonyms, though minor differences exist between them.14 Status can mean prestige, but it can also mean one's rank in a hierarchy (the country with the highest infant mortality rate), an official classification (unemployed), or a position in a process (the bill is pending a vote). I use the word “prestige” in this article because it has one general meaning and is commonly used in diplomacy. These four aspects apply to the strategic and intrinsic perspectives on prestige.

A fifth aspect of prestige—that it elicits voluntary deference—characterizes a strategic view of prestige. Psychologists Cameron Anderson, John Hildreth, and Laura Howland found a consensus in psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, public health, and organizational behavior that prestige is “the respect, admiration, and voluntary deference” that others show an individual.15 They write that “voluntary deference” means “compl[iance] with that individual's wishes, desires, and suggestions—a compliance unaccompanied by threat or coercion.”16 International relations theorists also view voluntary deference as a key aspect of prestige.17 State pursuit of prestige is rational because it may lead to others' voluntary deference; it is a type of “soft power.”18

Voluntary deference distinguishes prestige from states' economic or military rankings, which some scholars use to define prestige. Robert Gilpin, for example, defines prestige as a reputation for power; but if power determines prestige, then distinguishing the concepts is pointless.19 A “prestige policy” is one that might diminish a state's material capabilities, but that generates the respect and admiration of other states.20 Recognizing voluntary deference as an aspect of prestige distinguishes prestige from material power. It also makes prestige policies rational, because states' voluntary deference to a state with prestige increases that state's power. If policymakers cannot distinguish prestige from other types of power, then they cannot know if prestige policies are worth pursuing.

Policymakers sometimes use the word “prestige” when they might mean “reputation.” A reputation is a judgment of another state's (or leader's) character, which is then used to predict or explain that state's future behavior.21 Both concepts refer to characteristics of a state rather than the state's environment, and both are relational concepts that policymakers sometimes confuse for property concepts. Unlike prestige, however, reputation does not depend on a community's shared beliefs; it does not entail voluntary deference; and it always predicts that one will behave similarly in the future. Most important, reputation is not relative. It does not depend on a hierarchy. Everyone can have a reputation for being equally frugal, irresolute, or honest. My reputation for honesty does not alter your reputation for honesty; but if being honest is considered an admirable quality, then your honesty might diminish my prestige. Reputation is relational, but not relative. Prestige is both relational and relative: I help to decide how much prestige you have, which has implications for how much prestige I have.

Traditional approaches to the study of prestige use human nature to explain why policymakers since the Peloponnesian War have worried about their state's prestige.22 As Deborah Larson, T.V. Paul, and William Wohlforth conclude: “No matter how irrational or petty they may seem, status concerns cannot be evaded because they are inherent to human preferences.”23 Joslyn Barnhart suggests that humans are “hardwired” to care about their status; it is an “innate human trait.”24 This universal desire for self-esteem persists because it confers evolutionary advantages.25 Because human nature drives concern for prestige, it will be just as important between states as within them.26 Morgenthau emphasizes that prestige polices are “as intrinsic an element of the relations between nations as the desire for prestige is of the relations between individuals.”27 For example, social identity theory (SIT) uses a universal desire for self-esteem to explain how the need for “positive distinctiveness” leads people to view their group as different—and better—than other groups.28 Deborah Larson and Alexei Shevchenko use SIT to suggest that “states may improve their status by joining elite clubs, trying to best the dominant states, or achieving preeminence outside the arena of geopolitical competition.”29 According to the traditional view, human nature explains why prestige policies endure and why they are rational.

There are two reasons why scholars should be skeptical of the traditional view that prestige policies are rational because they generate voluntary deference. First, “all” or “nearly all” quantitative studies of prestige use the number of diplomats a state has as a proxy for prestige.30 Voluntary deference might correlate with the number of diplomats, but these studies provide neither an explanation nor evidence (other than a diplomatic head count) for why that is so. Diplomatic recognition would seem to capture a state's military or economic power more than how much it is admired. The second reason for skepticism is the absence of qualitative evidence. Qualitative scholars (including historians) detail the costly policies that states pursue to defend or advance their prestige, but they do not examine whether states acquire the prestige they covet or how states gauge their own or others' prestige.

To assess the claim that prestige has strategic value, I examine two questions. First, how do policymakers evaluate their state's prestige? Traditional approaches do not address this question. Presumably, the basis for developing a prestige policy is the same as that for any foreign policy: analysis, research, intelligence, and discussion. If a concern for prestige is a reason for war, then rational actors will conduct research and analysis to estimate their prestige. Second, how do policymakers assess another state's prestige? Traditional approaches do not address this question because they assume no actor-observer difference. Regardless of how actors evaluate their prestige (whether through research and analysis or some other way), actors and observers will agree on what constitutes prestige, and they will update their beliefs about prestige accordingly. A state might believe that other states underestimate its prestige, but everyone knows who has how much prestige.

The Psychology and Politics of Prestige in International Politics

In this section, I use psychology and political incentives to explain why prestige in international politics is an illusion. I first discuss how actors evaluate their prestige. I then describe how observers assess an actor's prestige.

ACTORS: EMOTION AND PRESTIGE

The illusion of prestige in international politics persists because policymakers mistake their feelings of pride or shame as evidence of their state's prestige. “Pride” and “prestige” are different concepts with different implications, but the feelings are the same. Pride is a property of the actor. Policymakers can feel pride in their state because other states view it with admiration or even because they view it with contempt. During Greece's 2015 debt crisis, for example, a Greek finance minister said upon resigning: “I shall wear the creditors' loathing with pride.”31 In contrast, prestige is a relational concept; it depends on the beliefs of others. The leader of the United Kingdom's Independence Party viewed Greece during the debt crisis with admiration, not loathing: “It's fantastic to see the courage of the Greek people in the face of political and economic bullying from Brussels.”32 Prestige can generate pride, but pride cannot generate prestige.

Actors confuse pride with prestige for two reasons. First, as noted earlier, rational people use feelings as evidence for their beliefs.33 Psychologist Daryl Bem argues that people do not think of beliefs that are based on their senses (or on their experiences) as beliefs because they do not doubt the validity of their senses. They know from experience that oranges are round; they accept that their experience is truthful, and they conclude that oranges are round. They jump directly from the experience to the conclusion without the intervening step confirming the validity of their senses. Such commonsense beliefs, writes Bem, “demand no independent formal or empirical confirmation and … require no justification beyond a brief citation of direct experience.”34 They carry their own justification. At the state level, policymakers accept the truthfulness of their experience of pride or shame as evidence of their state's prestige. The stronger their feeling, the more certain their belief.35

The second reason why actors confuse pride with prestige is traceable to the role of group emotion. Group emotion can be stronger and more certain than individual emotion.36 When members of one's group feel the same way, this leads one to believe that everyone (not just group members) will interpret a pride-eliciting event in the same way. For example, a South Korean newspaper reflected popular pride for a South Korean skater when writing, “What she did in a country where there was no decent ice rink was nothing but a miracle. … Yu-na elevated the national prestige.”37 If one finds the meaning of an event self-evident, then one assumes that it will be self-evident to others. If these individual and group dynamics operate as I expect, then people who feel pride in their country will believe that they have gained international prestige; those who feel shame will believe that they have lost prestige.

In contrast, the traditional prestige argument expects that victory (or some form of admirable behavior) will cause both pride and prestige. Winning Olympic gold medals in 2016 elevated British prestige, as well as feelings of British pride. If this traditional prestige argument is correct, then one should see two types of evidence. First, policymakers will not use their feelings about their state's behavior as evidence of their state's prestige. Second, no actor-observer difference should exist: actors and observers should assess prestige similarly.

OBSERVERS: PSYCHOLOGY AND POLITICS

Different psychological incentives drive actors and observers. Social identity theory captures these different incentives. It assumes that people need to feel that their group is different and better than rival groups. People need to feel pride in their group, which might explain why states seek prestige. And if a state needs to view itself as better than a rival, then it is unlikely to view that rival as meriting prestige. One way to maintain pride in one's group is to discount or disparage a rival group's accomplishments.38 For example, when Germany beat Britain in the 1990 World Cup semifinals, a reporter asked Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher how she felt about losing to Germany at Britain's national sport. Thatcher responded, “I shouldn't worry too much. We've beaten them twice this century at theirs.”39 Social identity theory captures a paradoxical aspect of prestige. On the one hand, SIT can explain why states want prestige. On the other hand, SIT explains why states in international politics are unlikely to obtain it.

Political incentives make it unlikely that a state will obtain voluntary deference even if other states view it as having prestige. Attributing prestige to an actor carries political implications. Because prestige is relational (I help to determine your prestige) and relative (your prestige can change my prestige), one should expect prestige assessments to be political and functional: the consequences of attributing prestige influence the attribution of prestige.40 If what I think of you has implications for how much power you have compared to me (as well as how I think of myself or how others think of me), then these implications will influence my judgment. Rational actors will manipulate beliefs that create reality.41 For example, the Chinese press reacted with glee to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein's critical report on the Central Intelligence Agency's use of torture, which the Chinese interpreted as highlighting American hypocrisy on human rights. An editorial in the Chinese daily Global Times complained, however, that the United States received too much credit for publishing the report and not enough criticism for “the crime of prisoner abuse.”42 Assuming that policymakers have choices in how they explain a state's behavior, these explanations of their own and a rival's prestige will be politically expedient and will support their domestic and foreign policy interests.

Whether the motivation is psychological or political, observers have choices in how they assess an actor's behavior. Prestige depends on an individual's subjective assessment of this behavior. People with different interests and beliefs often explain the same behavior differently. One can usually attribute otherwise meritorious behavior to situational factors.43 For example, the Chinese emphasized British government support of its athletes to discount British Olympic success. If one believes that the British bought their Olympic success, then there is nothing admirable about it. Alternatively, one might recognize a particular behavior as prestigious but respond with, for example, envy. Envy produces resentment and undermines prestige.44 As Shakespeare remarked in Pericles, envy is “oft the wrack of earned praise.” Winning a Nobel Prize is prestigious, and South Koreans know that Japan has won more than they have. This knowledge leads some South Koreans to envy, not esteem, Japan.45 Actors also have choices. They will explain away their defeats and take credit for their victories, though such self-serving explanations will not always be possible. As much as policymakers would like to view their state's military defeat in situational terms, if they experience that defeat as a humiliation, then it is a humiliation.

Actors and observers will experience an actor's victory or defeat differently. The intensity of their feelings about the victory or defeat is likely to vary, as are the feelings themselves. For example, observers might experience schadenfreude in a rival's humiliation, and disappointment or envy in a rival's victory. Observers might experience pride in an ally's triumph and shame in its humiliation. Whereas I expect policymakers' feelings of pride and shame to influence their assessments of their own and other states' prestige, different feelings (e.g., schadenfreude, disappointment, or envy) seem unlikely to serve as evidence of prestige.

A state is most likely to obtain prestige from its allies. When prestige is positive sum (i.e., a state benefits from its association with an admirable state), then an observer might recognize a state as meriting prestige: the more admirable my ally is, the more admirable I am. The catch is whether my admiration for my state increases as much as or more than my admiration for my ally: one small bump in prestige for my ally, one giant leap for me. Among allies, but also among adversaries, prestige can be mutually but not equally beneficial. Paintings and sculptures of Napoleon filled the duke of Wellington's home: the greater Napoleon's prestige as a military genius, the greater Wellington's accomplishment in defeating him.46

A state is least likely to obtain prestige from its adversaries. When prestige is zero sum, states will discount a rival's admirable behavior and revel in its humiliation. States will neither voluntarily defer to a rival nor challenge a rival because of prestige, although fear of such challenges is one reason states pursue costly prestige policies.47 I do not expect a state's apparently diminished prestige to elicit a challenge, for three reasons. First, states will not view their rivals as meriting prestige ex ante, so they have little prestige to lose ex post. The images of U.S. soldiers torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq War shook Americans' self-image, but for some observers the news only confirmed their beliefs. As Fouad Ajami said, “We were not loved in the Arab world the day before yesterday, the day before these pictures were made available, and we saw these horrific scenes. This just simply plays into the stereotypes people have.”48 Second, the experience of observing a rival's humiliation elicits feelings other than shame, which an observer might use as evidence of a rival's diminished prestige. Third, diminished admiration and respect do not imply diminished military or economic capabilities.

Hypotheses and Case Selection

In this section, I discuss competing hypotheses drawn from traditional and psychological approaches to the study of the role of prestige in international politics to address two puzzles. The first puzzle—How do actors evaluate their prestige?—yields the following two hypotheses.

H1a (traditional): If actors believe they know their state's prestige, then their analysis will be the basis for this belief.

H1b (psychological): If actors believe they know their state's prestige, then their feelings will be the basis for this belief.

The second puzzle—How do observers assess an actor's prestige?—yields the two hypotheses below.

H2a (traditional): No actor-observer difference in assessments of prestige exists. If an actor merits prestige, then rational observers will attribute prestige to that actor and show voluntary deference accordingly.

H2b (psychological and political): Prestige attributions are functional. If observers are adversaries, they will not attribute prestige to an actor; if observers are allies, they might attribute prestige to an actor but rarely show voluntary deference.

The traditional view is supported when an actor studies how observers view its prestige (H1a) or when an actor's prestige influences an observer's policy (H2a): admirable behavior (not feelings about that behavior) explains the conferral of prestige and elicits voluntary deference. A psychological and political view is supported when actors and observers use their feelings as evidence of prestige (H1b and H2b) or when observers discount an actor's apparent prestige (H2b).

I use the case of the 1899–1902 South African War to test the four hypotheses above. Traditional scholarship on prestige assumes an unchanging human nature to explain the enduring importance of prestige in international politics. For this reason, quantitative studies use historical datasets, and qualitative research commonly relies on historical cases to test its hypotheses on the contemporary importance of prestige. Using history to test my argument is also appropriate, for two reasons. First, theories that explain how people reason today ought to apply to policymakers in 1900. Second, the illusion of prestige persists in part because of the relational and relative nature of prestige in international politics. Policymakers today have access to better intelligence and might be more knowledgeable than their predecessors, but these factors do not change an observer's incentives to make self-serving explanations of an actor's behavior. Better assessment does not make prestige important; it makes the illusion apparent.

The South African War is an easy case for traditional prestige arguments, for three reasons. First, the more important prestige is to policymakers, the easier it ought to be to find evidence of its importance. Policymakers in the colonial period obsessed over their state's prestige. Historian Ronald Hyam argues, “Crucially and fundamentally, obsession with prestige assumed a primary significance for all expanding states. … So pervasive is the determining influence of prestige on governments that it can be shown to be intimately related to geopolitical assessments, and thus a root cause of the wars which they fight.”49 Historian Peter Henshaw commented, “Prestige clearly mattered to British policy-makers, especially those in the cabinet.”50 Powerful states agreed that possessing colonies was prestigious.51

Second, the more certain one is about one's prestige or the more economically or politically costly one's prestige policy, the more certain others will also be, because the traditional argument (H2a) anticipates no actor-observer difference. The British cabinet believed that the choice in South Africa was either war or a loss of prestige.52 Britain pursued this costly war, which former Prime Minister Lord Rosebery described as “one of the most formidable wars … in which we have ever been engaged,” in part because of concern over a potential loss of prestige.53

Third, a prestige policy can influence observers only if they are aware of it. The British prestige policy that led to the South African War created a sensation in Europe, in the Commonwealth, and in the United States. The fascination with the war extends to historians, who have written extensively on the conflict and provide the evidence necessary to test the hypotheses described above.

To address the first puzzle—How do actors evaluate their prestige?—I examine the evidence that British policymakers used before and during the war to gauge British prestige. To address the second puzzle—How do observers assess an actor's prestige?—I concentrate on how four British allies (New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States) assessed Britain's prestige after British defeats and victories, and whether they voluntarily deferred to Britain before or during the war. British allies seem more likely than British adversaries to view Britain as meriting prestige and voluntary deference, which makes them a hard case for my argument. Imagining an ally's voluntary deference is easy because prestige can be positive sum with allies. If prestige does not elicit voluntary deference among allies, then such deference among adversaries is unlikely. I also briefly discuss Russian, French, and German views of British prestige. The evidence confirms the psychology hypotheses H1b and H2b, but with exceptions that support traditional hypothesis H2a.

The British View of Prestige and the South African War

In nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Europe, all expanding states obsessed over their prestige, and nothing said “prestige” like having colonies.54 The British also believed that nothing was more prestigious than being a member of the British race—meaning white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant. They believed that this prestige helped explain why they had an empire and why they were able to keep it. British diplomat Harold Nicolson defined prestige as power based not on economic or military capabilities, but on a national character of justice, efficiency, and idealism: “How comes it … that we rule these dependencies with so modest an exhibition of the apparatus of power? How comes it that a mere handful of Englishmen—rare specks of foam upon a wide dark sea—can impose this habit of obedience upon so many millions?”55 Nicolson thought that prestige was founded “not so much upon power or success, as upon our national character.”56 He believed that Britain ruled so many with so few because colonial people esteemed Britain and voluntarily deferred to it. Although constant challenges in the colonies required violent suppression,57 Nicolson believed that it was the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race rather than superior weapons that explained the British Empire's success.

Social Darwinism helped to legitimize the British belief that racial and religious superiority explained Britain's military and economic success.58 In Britain's hierarchy of races, the British were on top, followed by the Americans, and then the Germans. Africans and Asians were at the bottom.59 The British believed that white people had thin skulls to accommodate their large brains, which explains why the British wore pith helmets to protect against sunstroke. According to George Orwell, “The thin skull was the mark of racial superiority, and the pith topi was a sort of emblem [of empire].”60 The prize of empire marked one as superior to other Europeans, and India was the jewel in the British crown. The viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, believed: “As long as we rule India we are the greatest power in the world.”61 Historian Stuart Cohen noted that ruling India gave the British “a feeling of achievement,” similar to that of owning a vast country estate; it may ruin one's finances in the long run, but it signals one's prestige in the short run.62

In the colonial era, British policymakers did not dwell on the meaning of prestige, because its significance was obvious: being British was prestigious; prestige was necessary to maintaining the empire; and the empire generated prestige that guaranteed British prosperity and security. The future Prime Minister Robert Salisbury observed that regardless of the strength of one's fortresses, “if the prestige of the Power coming against you is greater than your own, it will penetrate through that barrier; it will undermine your sway; it will dissolve the loyalty and patriotism of those you rule.”63 Prestige was a weapon to wield against one's adversaries, even though the opinions of one's adversaries determined how much prestige one had. Nevertheless, what the British lacked in coherence in how they thought about prestige, they made up for in the certainty that prestige was worth fighting for.

THE SOUTH AFRICAN WAR

On October 9, 1899, the Boer demand for independence from Britain represented a threat to British prestige that had to be quashed. The Boers (or Afrikaners) were of Dutch descent. The British intended to establish a pro-British regime in two South African republics—the Transvaal and the Orange Free State—through extension of the franchise to settlers of English descent (called Uitlanders or outsiders). By March 1900, 200,000 British and Empire troops were fighting fewer than 45,000 Boers.64 Britain went to war to defend British prestige. As Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain said, “Our supremacy in South Africa and our existence as a great power in the world are involved.”65 The British Admiralty reported in 1897 that keeping the Cape (as a coaling station) was essential to keeping India, and the War Office warned that the loss of India “would be a death-blow to our prosperity, prestige and power.”66 But even if Britain kept the Cape, giving the Boers their independence would cause such a loss of prestige that the British would lose India, too. British policymakers believed that losing India would reduce Britain from a first-rate to a third-rate power.67 Given the centrality of prestige to British foreign policy, one would have expected British policymakers to have paid attention to how other countries assessed British prestige and to devote the resources necessary to ascertain British prestige. The next two sections test the traditional and psychological hypotheses on prestige (H1a and H1b) to address the first puzzle: How do policymakers evaluate their state's prestige?

RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS AS EVIDENCE OF BRITISH PRESTIGE?

According to the first traditional hypothesis (H1a), the British should have tried to evaluate European or colonial beliefs about British prestige before and during the war in South Africa. Yet, there is no evidence that British policymakers demanded to know how allies and adversaries assessed British prestige after a victory or defeat; no discussion in the British cabinet or Parliament of how some states overestimated and others underestimated British prestige and the tricky policy problems these assessments would create. Although a desire to maintain its prestige helped drive Britain to war in South Africa, historians provide no assessment of the validity of British beliefs about its prestige. Historian Bill Nasson complained that research on international reactions to the war often provides pointless detail, for it is “hard to see what general relevance these international ripples had beyond that of a parochial national flutter.”68 A parochial flutter is a fair characterization, but such research is crucial for understanding the validity of Britain's concerns for its prestige.

British concern over a crucial resource such as its prestige should have led to a spare-no-expense effort to ascertain Britain's prestige. It did not. Before the South African war, no single British organization directed intelligence gathering. The War Office's budget in 1899 for worldwide intelligence gathering was £20,000 (about $3 million today).69 Not until 1909 did the British have a permanent intelligence organization.70 The Colonial Office was best able to report on British prestige within the empire; according to Hyam, the Office was a “political backwater … a sleepy, humdrum place. … It was one of the smallest departments in Whitehall.”71 Although six offices were devoted to managing British overseas interests—the Foreign Office, the India Office, the War Office, the Admiralty, the Board of Trade, and the Colonial Office—the government had limited knowledge of the empire.

British decisionmakers took Britain to war in South Africa in part because they feared that any failure to confront a challenge to British rule would undermine British prestige in India, which they thought would cost Britain its empire. Yet they did not study what Indians thought of British prestige. Curzon had no understanding of, or interest in, the Indians he ruled. He viewed Indians as “less than school children” and incapable of governing themselves.72 Before Parliament Curzon said, “The idea of representation is alien to the Indian mind.”73 He was oblivious to the intense dislike that many educated Indians felt toward him.74 He would have been unable to accurately gauge Indian perceptions of Britain even if he thought such reporting was necessary.

At the same time that the British were anxious to defend their prestige, they seemed not to care what others thought about it, which seems like a paradox, though it is not. The British felt they already knew what others thought of British prestige. That little scholarship existed on Africa, India, or China did not diminish their confidence in this belief.75

Based on my research, the British neither sought the opinions that others had of British prestige nor discussed which state had how much prestige and how British policy should change accordingly. Other states' prestige was unimportant compared to the balance of power. For example, when Prime Minister Salisbury assessed the general German threat to Britain in 1900, he focused on Germany's “mortal terror” of Russia, not German prestige.76 When the Japanese (whom the British viewed as an inferior race) defeated the Russians in 1905, a British officer charged with assessing the Russian threat to Britain reported that Russia might attack India “with a view of restoring Russian prestige in Asia and to wringing a large money indemnity from us.”77 Although Europeans perceived Japan's defeat of Russia as especially embarrassing to the Russians—Europeans commonly believed that “the lighter the skin, the sharper the sword”78—it did not diminish British perceptions of the Russian threat.79 To the contrary, British army officers worried that a Russian belief in Russia's diminished prestige increased the Russian threat.

How the British assessed the prestige of other countries was important in one respect. The British were so proud of their whiteness, the shape of their eyes, and their religion that they confused this sense of pride with prestige. Their racism and religious chauvinism influenced their policies toward those at the bottom of their imagined racial hierarchy. On the one hand, this racism was functional. It helped to legitimize the illegitimate: racism and imperialism go together like fish and chips. On the other hand, assessing others' capabilities based on the shape of their eyes is dysfunctional, as the British learned in World War II when 30,000 Japanese crushed 100,000 British soldiers in Singapore.80 Racism in the guise of prestige influenced British policy, but prestige depends on intersubjective beliefs. Other races (including the French and the Germans) did not view the British as a master race. The Japanese had their own racial hierarchy, which mixed admiration of the West with fear, mistrust, and hatred.81 People in other countries did not view British culture as superior to their own. People with other religions did not believe that the Church of England stood above all others.82 The British viewed their prestige as a fact and believed that jealousy drove those who felt differently. As one British policymaker said, “We are an object of envy and of greed to all the other Powers.”83 As the first psychology hypothesis (H1b) expects, and as I discuss in the next section, the British were a legend in their own mind.

EMOTION AS EVIDENCE OF BRITISH PRESTIGE

The first psychology hypothesis (H1b) expects actors to use feelings of pride and shame as evidence of their prestige. According to historian Andrew Porter, British decisionmakers had “a feeling that British dominance in southern Africa was essential to a consolidation of the Empire”; the truth of this belief “was taken for granted, and alternatives hardly discussed.”84 If feelings carry their own justification and are especially strong when experienced in groups, then confusing pride with prestige is normal. A traditional approach would interpret this evidence differently. It is not feelings but victory (or other admirable behavior) that explains beliefs about prestige: one who feels shame at a victory will nonetheless believe that the victory is prestigious.

SHAME AND BLACK WEEK

The British viewed the Boers as inferior in every way, which made any Boer victory particularly humiliating.85 British decisionmakers thought that these humiliations undermined British prestige, as the first psychology hypothesis (H1b) expects. In the first Boer War (1881), the Boers defeated 500 British soldiers at Majuba Hill. British decisionmakers viewed this defeat as shameful and as undermining British prestige.86 Further adding to British humiliation, in 1895 the British prime minister of the Cape Colony, Cecil Rhodes, orchestrated the failed Jameson raid to take over the Transvaal for himself and for Britain, which led to sixteen British dead and one Boer dead.87 In response to Kaiser Wilhelm's congratulatory telegram to Boer leader Paul Kruger for repelling the Jameson raid, Colonial Secretary Chamberlain remarked: “I think that what is called an ‘Act of Vigour’ is required to soothe the wounded vanity of the nation. It does not much matter which of our numerous foes we defy but we ought to defy someone.”88 Prime Minister Salisbury believed that the unavenged Majuba humiliation was a “fatal error … the origin of all their [the Gladstone government's] failures” and that it damaged British prestige.89

Believing that war was inevitable, the Boers decided to attack before the full force of British troops arrived. On October 9, 1899, the Transvaal government demanded that Britain withdraw its troops from the Transvaal's borders within forty-eight hours. Failure to comply would mean war.90 The ultimatum delighted the British, who considered war an easy opportunity to restore British prestige. Foreign Secretary Lord Lansdowne congratulated Chamberlain: “Accept my felicitations. I don't think Kruger could have played your cards better than he has.”91

The first psychology hypothesis (H1b) expects actors to use their feelings of shame as evidence for their belief in a diminished prestige. Three Boer victories within the span of a week in mid-December 1899 stunned the British and came to be known as Black Week.92 Historians Denis Judd and Keith Surridge describe these defeats as embarrassing, traumatic, and shocking, and as undermining British national self-esteem.93 After watching one of the British defeats, a British war correspondent lamented: “What shame! What bitter shame for all the camp. All ashamed for England! Not of her—never that!—but for her. Once more she was a source of laughter to her enemies.”94 Another contemporary observer wrote, “The fame of the Army, the prestige of the nation, the very existence of the Empire, were in grievous peril.”95 Army Commander in Chief Garnet Wolseley thought Britain confronted “a serious national crisis” that could “lead to dangerous complications with foreign powers.”96 Lord Rosebery (who had been both prime minister and foreign secretary) said at Chatham House, “There has been a great loss of prestige. … What we have to do is to set ourselves, with as little loss as may be, to recover all that prestige.”97 That the British considered the Boers uncivilized, racially inferior, and amateur soldiers—Salisbury referred to them a “wretched little population” and Chamberlain called Kruger an “ignorant, dirty, cunning” old man—made the defeats especially shameful.98 Only victory would restore British pride and prestige.

The British Liberal Party and Irish nationalists opposed the war, but felt differently about it. Unlike Irish nationalists, Liberals did not rejoice in British humiliations.99 Worried about British losses, they ended their public opposition to the war after Black Week. Admitting defeat was unthinkable.100 An outspoken member of the Liberal Party and opponent of the war, Henry Labouchère, declared his support for his country, right or wrong, because of the danger of Britain's humiliation before the other great powers.101

In contrast, Irish nationalists identified with the Boers. More than three-quarters of the Irish members of Parliament opposed the war.102 Because they tended to view Britain as an adversary, they provide a test for the second set of hypotheses (H2a and H2b). As the second psychology hypothesis (H2b) expects, Irish nationalists' and loyalists' explanations of British behavior were functional: they interpreted British and Boer motivations and behavior based on how they felt about Irish Home Rule (limited legislative independence). British defeats pleased Irish nationalists who dreamed of Irish independence. At the same time, and as the second traditional hypothesis (H2a) expects, Irish nationalists (like everyone in Britain) viewed Britain as having lost prestige. For example, Irish Nationalist Party member and British minister of Parliament John Redmond became optimistic in the prospects for Irish independence after Black Week. He declared in the House of Commons, “England's prestige, which had protected her for so long, was at this moment almost shattered, and no man could tell what might not arise out of the situation.”103 Redmond's belief contradicts my expectation (H2b) that observers will not view their rivals as having prestige ex ante, so they have little prestige to lose ex post.

THE BRITISH DEFEAT THE BOERS

Between February and May 1900, Britain repeatedly defeated the Boers and regained control of most of South Africa.104 The British felt enormous pride in these victories, which they viewed as extraordinary. This pride led to a belief that British prestige had been restored, which supports the first psychology hypothesis (H1b). Breaking the Boer siege of Mafeking, for example, led to unprecedented celebrations in England. Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Balfour said that the “nightmare” of national humiliation was over.105 The Oxford English Dictionary added “to Mafik” to capture the euphoric, wild, “Mafeking” crowds.106 A British war correspondent wrote, “It is good to be an Englishman. These foreigners start too quick and finish quicker. They are good men but we are better, and have proved so for several hundred years.”107 Each victory led to “Mafeking” crowds, reported the Handsworth Herald: “Staid citizens, whose severe respectability and decorum were usually beyond question or reproach were to be seen parading the streets shouting patriotic songs with the full force of their lungs, dancing, jumping, screaming in a delirium of unrestrained joy.”108 So great was the joy that members of Parliament sang the national anthem to Queen Victoria in the courtyard of Buckingham Palace.109

The London Times reported Prime Minister Salisbury's November 1900 assessment of the momentous year: “We are naturally asking ourselves, after this year so full of vicissitudes, so full of emotions, so full of glorious deeds, how do we stand with reference to the opinion of the world and to our own prestige and power?” Despite the setbacks, “the courage which … is traditionally associated with the English race has not in any degree lost its quality or diminished its value in the hands of those by whom that race is now represented.” Salisbury thought that the “wonderful achievement” of sending so many troops to such a distant location in such a short time would impress everyone. The greatest gains of the war came from the rousing support of the colonies: “What appears to me to be the most important part of our gains in this last year is that we have established before the world what I think the world did not thoroughly believe—the hearty sympathy which exists between the Colonies and the Mother Country. It is a result of enormous value. It has been fully achieved. The Colonies have shown their interest in us by sacrifices which cannot be doubted; and from this time forth the estimate that is formed of the value of the colonial connexion, both in the eyes of foreigners and in our own, will be very different from what it has been in times past.”110 As the first psychology hypothesis (H1b) anticipates, Salisbury used his pride in Britain as evidence of British prestige.

How critics of the war who were British reacted to these victories offers further insight into whether actors use victory (H1a) or pride (H1b) as evidence of British prestige. The journalist and economist John Hobson (who was anti-imperialist, anti-war, and an anti-Semite) believed that Britain went to war for South Africa's gold.111 Hobson felt shame at the British victories and mocked those who believed that the war restored British prestige:

“See how all our Colonies rally round us, how brave and enduring are our soldiers, how skillful our commissariat, how scientific our generalship, how firm and successful our career of conquest.” Our neighbours are convinced that we are fully conscious of our real defects, and that we are assuming this bold, triumphant pose in order to brave it out; and, being thus convinced, they miss the full humour of the proceeding. For we are quite genuine in our quaint persuasion that we are heaping glory on ourselves, and are establishing a splendid prestige in the eyes of the world: the contempt of European nations is, we feel certain, a mere affectation bred of jealousy, while their unconcealed hostility is proof of the real respect which our prowess has produced.112

Hobson condemned the “mob mind” that created the “anarchic fraternity” of the Mafeking crowds.113 He opposed the war, and British behavior during it embarrassed him. He was certain the victory diminished British prestige.

The logistical skill involved in fighting this war did not impress Hobson.114 He thought that the British should be “ashamed” that it took so many so long to beat so few, and he was frustrated that “the mind of the people is swollen with a genuine pride at our achievement.”115 Hobson commented that his countrymen felt “no shame” for the barbaric conduct of British troops.116 John Merriman, another British opponent of the war who was also active in South African politics, thought the British acted as if they had beaten France or Russia: “People in England seem mad. One would think the Empire was engaged in a death grapple with Napoleon instead of being on a piratical mission to stamp the freedom out of two little states whose united population would not make that of a second-rate English town! What a spectacle for those who hate us and sneer at our hypocrisy.”117 Another anti-imperialist, Wilfrid Blunt, similarly thought that his countrymen were “behaving as though they had beaten Napoleon.”118 The shame these critics felt was evidence that the war had diminished Britain's prestige, just as Salisbury's pride convinced him that the war had restored British prestige. The evidence supports the first psychology hypothesis (H1b).

Whereas the Irish nationalists' reaction to the British defeats of Black Week provides mixed support for the second psychology hypothesis (H2b), their reaction to British victories unambiguously supports it. Irish nationalists saw nothing admirable in Britain's behavior. Arthur Griffith (who created the Irish political movement Sinn Fein in 1905) had lived in the Transvaal and was so impressed with the Boers that he would tolerate no criticism of them.119 One Irish politician wrote to Kruger, “England's is but a brigand's triumph; transient and insecure.”120 He and other Irish nationalists explained away British victories and focused instead on British defeats during Black Week. Even if the British eventually won, the Boers showed that the British were not invincible.121 The evidence supports the first psychology hypothesis (H1b) and contradicts the first traditional hypothesis (H1a). How one felt about British victories and defeats explained one's assessment of British prestige—no analysis was necessary.

Observer Assessments of British Prestige

The previous section considered how the British evaluated their prestige in the South African War. This section examines how British allies and adversaries assessed British prestige. Traditional arguments expect British allies and adversaries to have viewed British prestige the same way Britain did. No actor-observer difference should exist, which explains why traditional arguments focus exclusively on the actor, and not the community of observers, to assess an actor's prestige (H2a). In contrast, I expect there to be an actor-observer difference. I expect that observers' prestige assessments of an actor to be psychologically and politically self-serving, which means that Britain should gain no strategic value from its costly prestige policy (H2b). Allies might view each other as deserving prestige (because prestige can be positive sum among them), but voluntary deference remains unlikely. Adversaries will view each other as deserving neither prestige nor voluntary deference.

COMMONWEALTH ALLIES: NEW ZEALAND, AUSTRALIA, AND CANADA

Evidence supports hypotheses H2a and H2b before Black Week. For example, in some instances British prestige led to voluntary deference (H2a) among some British allies. Majorities in New Zealand and the six Australian colonies identified with and supported Britain in the war. New Zealanders and Australians generally accepted the British explanation that the war was over human rights for the Uitlanders. A future New Zealand defense minister said in September 1899, “I do not know what the quarrel is but I believe our case to be just.”122 A member of New Zealand's House of Representatives added, “England never draws the sword except in a good cause.”123 Colonial Secretary Chamberlain thought that a united empire would be most likely to force Boer concessions and avoid war. To that end, he suggested to the governments of Canada, New South Wales, and Victoria that a “spontaneously made” offer of colonial support to Britain would be of great value.124 The requested spontaneity elicited only a willingness to accept names of volunteers offering to fight in South Africa. One of Chamberlain's subordinates viewed this reluctant response as “not very satisfactory.”125 New Zealand was the first of the self-governing colonies to pledge support for the war. Most of the Australian colonies quickly followed.126 The British requested a token force of 2,500 men from all of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, and offered to pay their wages.127 As the traditional view of prestige (H2a) expects, New Zealand and most of the Australian colonies voluntarily deferred to Britain.

When the basis for voluntary deference is a desire for security (not admiration), then the second psychology hypothesis (H2b) gains support. New Zealand and the Australian colonies had national security reasons for supporting Britain. New Zealand Prime Minister Richard Seddon warned, “The British flag is our protection; without belonging to the Empire where would New Zealand be? … We should be under some other nation, perhaps treated as are the Outlanders in the Transvaal.”128 Historian Thomas Pakenham argues that New Zealand and the Australian colonies viewed British control over South Africa as a vital interest: “Threaten the Cape and you threatened the great imperial highways of trade to India and Australasia beyond.”129 The Anglo-German rivalry in Europe and Africa, as well as the growing Japanese threat in the Pacific, contributed to New Zealand's and the Australian colonies' decision to support Britain in the South African War.130

After Black Week, New Zealand and Australia believed that the war might be lost, an outcome that would put their security in jeopardy. Historian Craig Wilcox attributes Australian support for Britain to “fear that military defeat in South Africa threatened to plunge the British Empire, and thus Australia, into the world crisis that was developing out of the aggressive expansionism of imperial Germany.”131 Imperial defense and defense of Australia were the same. As one newspaper stated, “Her difficulty is ours, for if she fails … we shall soon be thrown on our own resources and become the prey of envious and hungry powers.”132 Prime Minister Seddon explained why New Zealand had to support Britain: “The war is only nominally with the Boers; actually it is with all those who are jealous of the growing power of the British Empire, and who, rejoicing at our reverses, are aiding and abetting the Boers. … The people of New Zealand are determined that the prestige of the British Empire, to which they belong, shall be maintained at all hazards.”133 New Zealand and Australia deferred to Britain based in part on their recognition of British prestige (H2a), and in part for reasons unrelated to prestige (H2b), such as their need for Britain's protection from other states.

New Zealanders' explanations for their contribution to the war effort were self-serving, as the second psychology hypothesis (H2b) expects. New Zealanders felt that their contribution of around 6,100 men was important to the British victory.134 In public and in private, New Zealand's officers commended the intelligence, initiative, and courage of their soldiers. New Zealand's soldiers thought they were among the best troops in South Africa.135 They were taller than the British troops, more physically imposing, and simply better.136 The war helped create a distinct New Zealand identity based on the “martial prowess” of its soldiers.137 New Zealanders were flush with national pride. The war had a bigger effect on how New Zealanders viewed themselves than on how they viewed Britain.

The war's effect on Australia supports both H2a and H2b. On the one hand, the Australians do not seem to have been overly impressed with the British victory (which supports the second psychology hypothesis, H2b). Aside from the six months following Black Week, Wilcox says the war was a “side-show.”138 Australians were more concerned with an unprecedented drought, slow economic recovery, and federation of the colonies. Australian soldiers won no glorious victories and suffered no heroic defeats (though they played a minor role in the liberation of Mafeking).139 Although the war coincided with the creation of Australia as an independent nation, it had a modest effect on Australian national identity. The different experiences of actors and observers lead to different assessments of prestige, which supports the second psychology hypothesis (H2b).

On the other hand, British deference to Australia supports the second traditional hypothesis (H2a). Australian delegates arrived in London in March 1900 to ensure that Chamberlain did not alter the bill for Australian federation as it passed through the House of Commons. Chamberlain wanted London, not Australia, to arbitrate constitutional disagreements. Even the conservative Punch magazine supported the Australians: “[I]f anybody can be trusted with [a little more freedom], you can.”140 The British government yielded the point the day Mafeking was liberated.

The Canadian government's initial opposition to the war, followed by its self-serving interpretation of Canada's contribution, supports the second psychology hypothesis (H2b). Canada provides a good test of the hypotheses: it was a self-governing British colony; most Canadians identified with Britain; but Canada had no interests at stake in the war. Canadian Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier opposed Canadian participation in the war given the financial cost, uncertainty over the Canadian-Alaskan border, and French-Canadian opposition to the war.141 Parts of English Canada were enthusiastically pro-war. Some Canadians supported the war because they believed that civilization was at stake; others offered pragmatic reasons, such as guaranteeing British support for securing its Alaskan border against the United States, improving Canada's position within the empire, and gaining access to any profits from the war.142 French Canadians did not believe that Canadian interests were in jeopardy, and they identified with the Boers' struggle to preserve their culture, language, and religion.143 Prime Minister Laurier eventually felt compelled to send a token number of troops. Historian Carman Miller characterizes the decision as a “reluctant, politically motivated, capitulation to the strident demands of Canada's pro-war advocates.”144 Although Canadians did not discuss Britain's prestige, they did discuss Canadian prestige; war supporters argued that failure to participate in the war would be humiliating and would harm Canadian prestige.145

Canadian opposition to the war ended after Black Week. French Canadians viewed a potential British defeat as dangerous. Britain was a crucial check on American imperialism.146 Canadians financially profited from the war, viewed their country's soldiers' performance as superior to others, and believed that their participation brought Canada into the community of nations.147 Consistent with the first psychology hypothesis (H1b), one can detect a feeling of pride generating a belief in Canadian prestige in Laurier's declaration that the battle of Paardeberg, where thirty-one Canadian soldiers died in the first major British victory after Black Week, “revealed to the world that a new power had arisen in the West.”148 The war gave the Canadians a feeling of power and confidence in their strength and in their future.149 Consistent with the second psychology hypothesis (H2b), Canadian explanations were self-serving. Canadians believed that their Nordic environment made their soldiers resourceful, reliant, and accustomed to working on their own. They were also taller and sturdier and believed that they were the best soldiers in the British army.150 The Canadians (and New Zealanders) thought they were most deserving of prestige after the war. Miller reports that British officials in Canada were “annoyed by the belittlement of British officers, and deplored the growth of Canadian self-confidence.”151 The Canadians did not bask in the glow of the British victory; they were the ones glowing.

A SYMPATHETIC U.S. GOVERNMENT

How Americans viewed Britain depended on their feelings and politics, though even admiration did not elicit deference. The American case supports the second psychology hypothesis (H2b). The U.S. government was so sympathetic to Britain's South African policy that Secretary of State John Hay had to repeatedly deny the existence of a secret Anglo-American alliance.152 Hay was a former ambassador to Britain and was unwavering in his sympathy for Britain. He set U.S. foreign policy for President William McKinley and continued as secretary of state under Theodore Roosevelt. Hay was a social Darwinist. He supported U.S. imperialism in the Philippines, and British imperialism in South Africa, as a way to spread the Anglo-Saxon race. Hay wrote, “The fight of England is the fight of civilization and progress and all our interests are bound up in her success.”153 Following a British victory after Black Week, Hay told the Dutch minister of foreign affairs: “At last we have had a success.” When asked what the American success was, Hay said with embarrassment that he was referring to British success in South Africa.154

Britain earned Hay's respect and admiration, but not his deference, which supports the second psychology hypothesis (H2b). For example, the 1850 Clayton-Bulwer Treaty guaranteed that neither the United States nor Britain would maintain exclusive control over any future Central American canal. The British would concede U.S. control only if the Americans agreed to resolve a dispute over the border with Alaska in Canada's favor. The United States accepted no compromises and made no concessions, but Britain reversed its position once the South African War began and insisted that Canada abandon its opposition to changes in the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty. Historian Charles Campbell wrote that British “distresses forced her to yield to the United States just as clearly as they did to Germany” over Samoa.155 Chamberlain opposed concessions, but changed his mind as the war dragged on.156 Campbell commented that after fifty years of fruitless negotiation over the U.S. creation and control of a Central American canal, the South African War had given Hay the opportunity to obtain a “complete capitulation” from Britain.157

Roosevelt became president after McKinley's assassination in 1901. Politics and race influenced Roosevelt's view of the South African War. The new president claimed “a hearty admiration and respect” for Britain.158 He recalled that Germany backed Spain, whereas the British offered friendly neutrality in the 1898 Spanish-American War. Roosevelt could not join his Republican colleagues in denouncing the Boers as an inferior race—he was part Dutch. He called the Boers a “splendid race” and thought they possessed “at bottom the same qualities [of] the English and Scotch.”159 Roosevelt admired the fighting prowess of the Boers in their “gallant struggle,” but Europe's anti-British sentiment led him to believe that the “the interests of the English-speaking peoples and civilization demand the success of the English army.”160 In Roosevelt's view, the problem was that the Boers spoke Dutch, not English, and promoting the English-speaking race was crucial to advancing civilization.161 If the Boers should somehow beat Britain, Roosevelt said: “I believe in five years it will mean a war between us and some one of the great continental European nations unless we are content to abandon our Monroe Doctrine for South America.”162 If Europeans used British difficulties to try to “smash the empire,” then Roosevelt thought the United States should have “a hand in the game.”163 Roosevelt admired the Boers and the British, but as the second psychology hypothesis (H2b) expects, he deferred to neither.

The writings of the influential theorist of naval warfare Alfred Mahan further illustrate the psychology and politics of prestige. Like Hay and Roosevelt, Mahan believed that U.S. security depended on maintaining the informal Anglo-American alliance. The British defeats during Black Week horrified him. Mahan wrote to a friend at the London Times, “I cannot express with what deep sorrow and anxiety your checks affect me. … But I cannot believe God will permit so beneficent a government to be permanently disabled.”164 Mahan worried about the influence of American supporters of the Boers, as did an American pro-British magazine that warned Americans not to “lose sight of the stupendous fact that British prestige is in mortal danger.”165 Once the British began to win, Mahan used social Darwinism to explain why a British victory was inevitable, desirable, and just.166 He was certain that Britain's performance in the war had been “admirable,” not only because the British had overcome logistical problems, but also because the Boers were much smarter than “savages,” for they had the “brain capacity of the white man. … I do not in the military record find cause to warrant loss of prestige.”167 Because Mahan felt that Britain did not warrant a loss of prestige, it had not lost any prestige, at least with those that mattered: “I do not believe the international prestige of Great Britain has sunk in foreign Cabinets, however it may be reckoned in the streets and cafes of foreign cities.”168 Consistent with the second psychology hypothesis (H2b), Mahan's feelings and politics explain his view of British prestige.

Politics also helps to explain how Republican and Democratic Party members viewed British prestige. Republicans supported and Democrats opposed the British-backed gold standard and U.S. imperialism in the Philippines. Both positions led the Democratic Party platform in 1900 to condemn Britain and to support the “heroic [Boers] in their unequal struggle to maintain their liberty and independence.”169 Democratic Senator Richard Pettigrew viewed Britain as a threat to civilization and nothing but a nation of robbers and murderers.170 And not surprisingly, Irish, Dutch, and German Americans supported the Boers.171 The New York–based Irish World newspaper argued that the Protestant Boers were not necessarily anti-Catholic; in fact, they were lucky to be Protestant, because that was the one thing the English would not take from them.172 Irish Americans did not turn away from the war once the British began to win. Instead, newspapers focused on the British use of “concentration camps,” “England's murder pens,” and other tactics that Irish Americans interpreted as evidence of British cowardice.173 To these criticisms Hay responded, “The Boer women and children are in the Concentration Camps simply because their husbands and brothers want them there.”174 In sum, American assessments of Britain (both for and against) support the second psychology hypothesis (H2b).

BRITISH ADVERSARIES: RUSSIA, FRANCE, AND GERMANY

As the second psychology hypothesis (H2b) predicts, Russian, French, and German policymakers discounted British prestige and worried exclusively about British military capabilities and the balance of power. They did not view Britain as meriting respect, admiration, or voluntary deference, though none wanted Britain defeated.

Russian Czar Nicholas confided to his sister how much he would like to exploit Britain's predicament, but he knew that Russia was too weak to risk war.175 Nicholas wrote in his diary about his sister's husband: “Sandro has gone completely mad about the war of the British against the Boers, though that is the case with all of us.”176 A Russian academic wrote at the time, “A curse to mankind was and is the policy pursued by Great Britain for the last two centuries. … ‘Darkest England’ has never been put before the world in her true character; her talk and pretense of furthering the cause of civilization and humanity having thrown a veil over British misdeeds.”177 British colonies did not elicit prestige from Russians. Instead, the Russians pitied British colonial subjects. A Russian officer was appalled at the harm British rule caused India: “Sick to death, the natives are waiting for a physician from the North.”178 The Russians had their own civilizing mission and their own feelings of superiority.179

Russians worried that the South African War would give their French ally or German friend an opportunity to improve relations with Britain and lessen their dependence on Russia.180 The prospect of the greatest land power (Germany) allying with the greatest maritime power (Britain) was a Russian nightmare. Russian diplomacy tried to keep Germany and France estranged from Britain, while doing nothing that could worsen Russian-British relations. In addition to geostrategic concerns, the Russians continued to depend on British finance.181 Britain's certain victory relieved Russian policymakers: the worse the British did, the greater the threat of an Anglo-German or Anglo-French rapprochement. The evidence supports the second psychology hypothesis (H2b).

French policymakers worried about British capabilities and discounted British prestige. The evidence supports the second psychology hypothesis (H2b). The British victory over the French at Fashoda in 1898 made clear British naval superiority. War was out of the question, at least one initiated by France.182 An emerging Anglo-German détente in the summer of 1899 alarmed French policymakers, as did the possibility that Britain might attack France: England “feels she cannot do much against Germany or Russia; but considers, rightly or wrongly, that France is vulnerable in several points, especially when it comes to her navy, her ports and her colonies. She would be all too happy to use her navy against France alone.”183 France viewed the British defeats during Black Week with glee, but French policy remained neutral and disassociated itself from French press attacks on Britain.184

The British victory over the Boers did not change French beliefs about British prestige. French Ambassador Paul Cambon “thought it ridiculous to give Lord Roberts [who commanded British forces] a Roman triumph on his return from South Africa.”185 France was preoccupied with the Dreyfus Affair and the upcoming Paris Universal Exhibition of 1900. French policymakers considered how they might exploit British difficulties, but in the end, did nothing. British capabilities and intentions, as well as French domestic politics, loomed large for French policymakers. British prestige did not.

The Germans were no different from the Russians and the French in their attention to British capabilities and their neglect of British prestige. The German ambassador to Great Britain, Paul von Hatzfeldt, reported that domestic politics and personality—not the international politics of prestige—drove Britain to war. Hatzfeldt believed that Prime Minister Salisbury (a Conservative Party member) would feel compelled to support a war to keep Colonial Secretary Chamberlain (a Liberal Unionist Party member) from appearing “as the real defender of England's honour,” which would cause “serious damage to himself and his party.”186 The perfect time to engage Britain in negotiations was the moment war became inevitable.187 The kaiser expressed to his subordinates an interest in intervening against Britain, but earning British enmity for the sake of the Boers would be, as an adviser put it, a “luxury.”188 Foreign Minister Bernhard von Bülow counseled that German policy toward Britain must be friendly.189 The kaiser agreed and forbid even retired German officers from taking a side in the war.190 Germany was neutral or even pro-British during the war, but Bülow exploited British concern that Britain might confront a hostile coalition of continental powers to obtain British concessions over Samoa.191

The German public so enjoyed British defeats that one adviser cautioned, “[W]e must take care that the phrase about our having left our racial brothers the Boers in the lurch does not become common coin.”192 Bülow did not want Britain to lose the war. He agreed with a German diplomat's assessment that a united South Africa would undermine German colonial interests in Africa.193 Bülow wanted to maintain the “status quo ante bellum, after heavy English losses, which would make the English more modest towards us, and in the meantime make use of the momentarily so favourable situation for the Baghdad railway, coaling station on the Red Sea, and other things.”194 He wished Britain to remain a Great Power, though weaker militarily and thus more pliable to German interests.

German policymakers' view did not change after Britain began to beat the Boers. They still viewed British troops as “rabble,” but British power and logistical skills continued to impress.195 The kaiser congratulated the king on the terms the British offered to the Boers and was “fervently hoping” the Boers would accept them.196 Germans enjoyed British defeats, but never took their eye off the threat Britain posed.

The evidence from Russia, France, and Germany thus supports the second psychology hypothesis (H2b). British prestige was unimportant.

Conclusion

Traditional arguments that prestige confers strategic advantage on states encourage and legitimize costly prestige policies. In this view, human nature makes a concern for prestige timeless, inevitable, and rational. If one believes that vanity (not strategy) drives a concern for prestige, one is still stuck with the irrational quest for prestige. The best one can do is to redirect this instinctual concern for prestige to more productive ends.197 For example, states might compete over reducing global poverty rather than over who has the most colonies. Traditional approaches assume that a concern for prestige in international politics—whether rational or irrational—is inevitable. It is not inevitable, however, and it is a mistake.

I expect that states will rarely pursue international prestige in the future. The basis for decisionmakers' prestige policies is not a human nature–driven imperative, but a commonly held belief that, I argue, is usually wrong. Policymakers are capable of recognizing that their feelings of pride are not evidence of prestige, and they are capable of thinking through the psychological and political reasons that make obtaining prestige and voluntary deference unlikely. The more familiar decisionmakers are with the psychology and politics of prestige (and the more research and analysis they conduct on the beliefs of others), the less likely that states will pursue prestige policies. A policy to advance a state's international prestige will become an anachronism, like dueling to defend one's honor or (perhaps) going to war to defend a state's reputation.198 Manipulating a gullible public for domestic political gain will emerge as the most common reason that states will pursue prestige policies.

Contrary to the expectations of the first traditional prestige hypothesis presented in this article, British policymakers did not analyze the beliefs of their allies and adversaries to discover their state's prestige either before embarking on the South African War or after it had begun. Instead, and as the first psychology hypothesis expects, they used their feelings of pride and shame as evidence of what others thought about their state's prestige. As the second psychology hypothesis expects, British allies and adversaries explained British behavior in psychologically and politically self-serving ways. I also found examples of voluntary deference to Britain from New Zealand and Australia, as well as an example of British deference to Australia, which support the second traditional prestige hypothesis (see table 1). However, if the great British empire could only barely and rarely obtain voluntary deference from two self-governing British colonies, then prestige policies have little strategic value.

Table 1.

Evidence of Prestige from the South African War, 1899–1902

Puzzle One
How did actors evaluate their prestige? H1a (traditional): if actors believe they know their state's prestige, then their analysis will be the basis for this belief H1b (psychology): if actors believe they know their state's prestige, then their feelings will be the basis for this belief 
Before the war Unsupported: the British knew their prestige, but conducted no research or analysis. They did not study or debate their (or others') prestige Supported: the British confused racial and religious pride with prestige. British used shame about Majuba and Jameson raid defeats as evidence of diminished prestige 
After Black Week Unsupported Supported: British shame at humiliating defeats used as evidence of diminished British prestige 
After Britain's victory Unsupported Supported: pride in British victories used by Britain as evidence of its prestige; British shame in British victories used as evidence of diminished prestige 
Puzzle One
How did actors evaluate their prestige? H1a (traditional): if actors believe they know their state's prestige, then their analysis will be the basis for this belief H1b (psychology): if actors believe they know their state's prestige, then their feelings will be the basis for this belief 
Before the war Unsupported: the British knew their prestige, but conducted no research or analysis. They did not study or debate their (or others') prestige Supported: the British confused racial and religious pride with prestige. British used shame about Majuba and Jameson raid defeats as evidence of diminished prestige 
After Black Week Unsupported Supported: British shame at humiliating defeats used as evidence of diminished British prestige 
After Britain's victory Unsupported Supported: pride in British victories used by Britain as evidence of its prestige; British shame in British victories used as evidence of diminished prestige 
Puzzle Two
How did observers assess prestige? H2a (traditional): if an actor merits prestige, then rational observers will attribute prestige to an actor and show voluntary deference accordingly H2b (psychological & political): if observers are adversaries, they will not attribute prestige to an actor; if observers are allies, they might attribute prestige to an actor but rarely show voluntary deference 
Irish nationalists Supported: believed (like the British) that Black Week shattered British prestige Supported: discounted British prestige after British victory 
New Zealand Supported: voluntary deference to Britain before Black Week Supported: national security motivation after Black Week; self-serving explanations of New Zealand prestige 
Australia Supported: voluntary deference to Britain before Black Week; British deference to Australia Supported: national security motivation after Black Week, but otherwise little attention to the war 
Canada Unsupported: domestic politics compelled support for British before Black Week Supported: self-serving explanations of Canadian prestige; discounted British prestige 
United States Unsupported Supported: Secretary of State John Hay admired Britain, but forced British concessions; President Theodore Roosevelt admired the British and the Boers, but offered no deference; Alfred Mahan also used feelings as evidence of prestige; feelings and politics explain views of German/Dutch/Irish immigrants and of Democrats/Republicans toward the British 
Russia, France, Germany Unsupported Supported: interests, capabilities, balance of power governed assessments of Britain; prestige was unimportant 
Puzzle Two
How did observers assess prestige? H2a (traditional): if an actor merits prestige, then rational observers will attribute prestige to an actor and show voluntary deference accordingly H2b (psychological & political): if observers are adversaries, they will not attribute prestige to an actor; if observers are allies, they might attribute prestige to an actor but rarely show voluntary deference 
Irish nationalists Supported: believed (like the British) that Black Week shattered British prestige Supported: discounted British prestige after British victory 
New Zealand Supported: voluntary deference to Britain before Black Week Supported: national security motivation after Black Week; self-serving explanations of New Zealand prestige 
Australia Supported: voluntary deference to Britain before Black Week; British deference to Australia Supported: national security motivation after Black Week, but otherwise little attention to the war 
Canada Unsupported: domestic politics compelled support for British before Black Week Supported: self-serving explanations of Canadian prestige; discounted British prestige 
United States Unsupported Supported: Secretary of State John Hay admired Britain, but forced British concessions; President Theodore Roosevelt admired the British and the Boers, but offered no deference; Alfred Mahan also used feelings as evidence of prestige; feelings and politics explain views of German/Dutch/Irish immigrants and of Democrats/Republicans toward the British 
Russia, France, Germany Unsupported Supported: interests, capabilities, balance of power governed assessments of Britain; prestige was unimportant 

This study does not refute traditional theories of prestige, but it is more than a provocation. One should be skeptical of prestige arguments that do not explain or document how actors evaluate their prestige, how observers assess an actor's prestige, or why one should expect an adversary's voluntary deference. If prestige rarely generates voluntary deference even among allies, then such deference among adversaries is improbable. Without voluntary deference, one is left with vanity to explain prestige policies, and in international politics even vanity, it seems, often depends on an illusion. For psychological and political reasons, the odds are against obtaining prestige in international politics. If states rarely gain prestige, then the justification for costly prestige policies collapses. The policy implication is simple: do not chase what you cannot catch.

Acknowledgments

The author thanks John Kent, Elizabeth Kier, Andrew Shaver, and the anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of this article. The Center for International Studies supported an extended stay at the London School of Economics, where much of this research was conducted.

Notes

1. 

Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1955), p. 75.

2. 

Ibid., p. 74.

3. 

See, for example, Lilach Gilady, The Price of Prestige: Conspicuous Waste in International Relations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, forthcoming); Deborah Welch Larson, T.V. Paul, and William C. Wohlforth, “Status and World Order,” in Paul, Larson, and Wohlforth, eds., Status in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. 3–29; Deborah Welch Larson and Alexei Shevchenko, “Status Seekers: Chinese and Russian Responses to U.S. Primacy,” International Security, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Spring 2010), pp. 63–95; Jennifer L. Miller et al., “Norms, Behavioral Compliance, and Status Attribution in International Politics,” International Interactions, Vol. 41, No. 5 (2015), pp. 779–804; and Jonathan Renshon, “Status Deficits and War,” International Organization, Vol. 70, No. 3 (Summer 2016), pp. 513–550.

4. 

Examples include Joslyn Barnhart, “Status Competition and Territorial Aggression: Evidence from the Scramble for Africa,” Security Studies, Vol. 25, No. 3 (2016), pp. 385–419; Richard Ned Lebow, Why Nations Fight: Past and Future Motives for War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010); and Daniel Markey, “Prestige and the Origins of War: Returning to Realism's Roots,” Security Studies, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Summer 1999), pp. 126–172.

5. 

Renshon, “Status Deficits and War,” p. 513.

6. 

Alan Cowell, “Britain Basks in a Golden Afterglow,” New York Times, August 14, 2012.

7. 

Tim Wigmore, “For Britain, a Lottery Pays Off in Gold,” New York Times, August 23, 2016.

8. 

For a discussion of emotion's role in rationality, see Antonio R. Damasio, Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (New York: Putnam, 1994); and Jonathan Mercer, “Rationality and Psychology in International Politics,” International Organization, Vol. 59, No. 1 (Winter 2005), pp. 77–106. For emotion and beliefs, see Nico H. Frijda, A.S.R. Manstead, and Sacha Bem, eds., Emotions and Beliefs: How Feelings Influence Thoughts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000); and Jonathan Mercer, “Emotional Beliefs,” International Organization, Vol. 64, No. 1 (Winter 2010), pp. 1–31. See also Frank Costigliola, Roosevelt's Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2012); Todd H. Hall, Emotional Diplomacy: Official Emotion on the International Stage (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2015); Todd H. Hall and Andrew A.G. Ross, “Affective Politics after 9/11,” International Organization, Vol. 69, No. 4 (Fall 2015), pp. 847–879; Jonathan Mercer, “Emotion and Strategy in the Korean War,” International Organization, Vol. 67, No. 2 (Spring 2013), pp. 221–252; and Keren Yarhi-Milo, “In the Eye of the Beholder: How Leaders and Intelligence Communities Assess the Intentions of Adversaries,” International Security, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Summer 2013), pp. 7–51.

9. 

Peter Toohey, Jealousy (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2014), p. 31.

10. 

Xinhua news agency, quoted in Neil Connor, “Britain Beat Us Because They Out-spent Us, Says China after Its ‘Worst Ever Olympic Flop,”’ Telegraph, August 22, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/22/britain-beat-us-because-they-out-spent-us-says-china-after-its-w/.

11. 

Although it is more commonly known as the Boer War, historians often refer to the “South African War” to recognize black South Africans' crucial role. See Peter Warwick, Black People and the South African War, 1899–1902 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 4–5.

12. 

Barry O'Neill, “Nuclear Weapons and National Prestige” (New Haven, Conn.: Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, 2006).

13. 

Gilady, The Price of Prestige.

14. 

Cameron Anderson, John Angus D. Hildreth, and Laura Howland, “Is the Desire for Status a Fundamental Human Motive? A Review of the Empirical Literature,” Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 141, No. 3 (May 2015), p. 575; Renshon, “Status Deficits and War,” p. 520; and Gilady, The Price of Prestige.

15. 

Anderson, Hildreth, and Howland, “Is the Desire for Status a Fundamental Human Motive?” p. 575.

16. 

Ibid.

17. 

Larson, Paul, and Wohlforth, “Status and World Order,” pp. 8, 14. See also Renshon, “Status Deficits and War,” pp. 515, 520, 521, 525.

18. 

Joseph S. Nye Jr., Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics (New York: PublicAffairs, 2004).

19. 

Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 31.

20. 

Gilady, The Price of Prestige.

21. 

Jonathan Mercer, Reputation and International Politics (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996).

22. 

Markey, “Prestige and the Origins of War.”

23. 

Larson, Paul, and Wohlforth, “Status and World Order,” p. 27.

24. 

Barnhart, “Status Competition and Territorial Aggression,” pp. 388, 389–390.

25. 

Lebow, Why Nations Fight; Renshon, “Status Deficits and War”; and Gilady, The Price of Prestige.

26. 

Barnhart, “Status Competition and Territorial Aggression”; Amitai Etzioni, “International Prestige, Competition, and Peaceful Coexistence,” European Journal of Sociology, Vol. 3, No. 1 (1962), pp. 21–41; Larson, Paul, and Wohlforth, “Status and World Order”; and Renshon, “Status Deficits and War.”

27. 

Morgenthau, Politics among Nations, p. 67.

28. 

Henri Tajfel and John C. Turner, “The Social Identity Theory of Intergroup Behavior,” in Stephen Worchel and William G. Austin, eds., Psychology of Intergroup Relations, 2nd ed. (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1986), pp. 7–24.

29. 

Larson and Shevchenko, “Status Seekers,” p. 67.

30. 

Renshon, “Status Deficits and War,” p. 518; and Miller et al., “Norms, Behavioral Compliance, and Status Attribution in International Politics,” p. 792.

31. 

Liz Alderman, “Germany Maintains a Hard Line on Greece Debt after Vote,” New York Times, July 6, 2015.

32. 

Alison Smale and Andrew Higgins, “Angela Merkel Faces Monumental Test of Leadership after Greek Vote,” New York Times, July 6, 2015.

33. 

See footnote 8.

34. 

Daryl J. Bem, Beliefs, Attitudes, and Human Affairs (Belmont, Calif.: Brooks/Cole, 1970), p. 6.

35. 

See footnote 8.

36. 

Jonathan Mercer, “Feeling Like a State: Social Emotion and Identity,” International Theory, Vol. 6, No. 3 (November 2014), pp. 515–535. See also Emma Hutchison, Affective Communities in World Politics: Collective Emotions after Trauma (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016); and Emma Hutchison and Roland Bleiker, “Theorizing Emotions in World Politics,” International Theory, Vol. 6, No. 3 (Fall 2014), pp. 491–514.

37. 

Choe Sang-Hun, “South Korea Puts Anger Aside after Olympic Skating Disappointment,” New York Times, February 22, 2014.

38. 

Mercer, “Feeling Like a State,” pp. 522, 526, 528–529.

39. 

Katrin Bennhold, “Working Out the War in Punch Lines,” New York Times, December 24, 2014.

40. 

For more on functional beliefs, see Robert Jervis, “Understanding Beliefs,” Political Psychology, Vol. 27, No. 5 (October 2006), pp. 641–663.

41. 

Robert Jervis, The Illogic of American Nuclear Strategy (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984).

42. 

Bree Feng, “Chinese Coverage of C.I.A. Torture Report Says It Highlights U.S. Hypocrisy,” New York Times, December 12, 2014.

43. 

Thomas F. Pettigrew, “The Ultimate Attribution Error: Extending Allport's Cognitive Analysis of Prejudice,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 5, No. 4 (1979), pp. 461–476; and Sammyh S. Khan and James H. Liu, “Intergroup Attributions and Ethnocentrism in the Indian Subcontinent: The Ultimate Attribution Error Revisited,” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Vol. 39, No. 1 (January 2008), pp. 16–36.

44. 

Christopher R. Browning, “How Envy of Jews Lay Behind It,” New York Review of Books, January 8, 2015, pp. 44–46.

45. 

Choe Sang-Hun, “South Koreans Back Japan's Peace Constitution as Nobel Prize–Worthy,” New York Times, December 19, 2014.

46. 

“Apsley House–Wellington Museum—London,” Napoleon.org, n.d., http://www.napoleon.org/en/magazine/places/apsley-house-wellington-museum-london/.

47. 

Barnhart, “Status Competition and Territorial Aggression.”

48. 

“Arab Reaction to Iraqi Prisoner Photos,” PBS Newshour, May 5, 2004, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/middle_east-jan-june04-prisoners_5-5/.

49. 

Ronald Hyam, Britain's Imperial Century, 1815–1914: A Study of Empire and Expansion, 3rd ed. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), p. 331.

50. 

Peter Henshaw, “The ‘Key to South Africa’ in the 1890s: Delagoa Bay and the Origins of the South African War,” Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 24, No. 3 (September 1998), p. 541.

51. 

Barry Buzan and George Lawson, “The Global Transformation: The Nineteenth Century and the Making of Modern International Relations,” International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 57, No. 3 (September 2013), pp. 620–634.

52. 

Andrew N. Porter, “British Imperial Policy and South Africa, 1895–1899,” in Peter Warwick, ed., The South African War: The Anglo-Boer War, 1899–1902 (London: Longman, 1980), p. 266.

53. 

Quoted in the Times (London), January 24, 1900, reprinted in Liberal Unionist Association, Memoranda (London: McCorquodale, 1900), p. 22.

54. 

Hyam, Britain's Imperial Century, 1815–1914, p. 331.

55. 

Harold Nicolson, The Meaning of Prestige (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1937), p. 6.

56. 

Ibid., p. 25.

57. 

Robert Gerwarth and Erez Manela, introduction to Gerwarth and Manela, eds., Empires at War: 1911–1923 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 4–5.

58. 

Ronald Hyam, Understanding the British Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 23–30.

59. 

Hyam, Britain's Imperial Century, 1815–1914, p. 77.

60. 

Ibid., pp. 303–304.

61. 

Stuart A. Cohen, “Prestige and Policy in British Imperialism before 1914: The Case of Mesopotamia,” in P. Artzi, ed., Bar-Ilan Studies in History, Vol. 1 (Ramat-Gan, Israel: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1978), p. 190.

62. 

Ibid.

63. 

Hyam, Britain's Imperial Century, 1815–1914, p. 33 (emphasis in the original).

64. 

Iain R. Smith, The Origins of the South African War, 1899–1902 (New York: Longman, 1996), p. 1.

65. 

A.N. Porter, The Origins of the South African War: Joseph Chamberlain and the Diplomacy of Imperialism, 1895–99 (Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1980), p. 241.

66. 

Hyam, Britain's Imperial Century, 1815–1914, p. 259; and Peter Henshaw, “The Origins of the Boer War: The Periphery, the Centre, and the ‘Man on the Spot,”’ in Keith Wilson, ed., The International Impact of the Boer War (New York: Palgrave, 2001), p. 13.

67. 

Hyam, Britain's Imperial Century, 1815–1914, p. 35.

68. 

Bill Nasson, “Waging Total War in South Africa: Some Centenary Writings on the Anglo-Boer War, 1899–1902,” Journal of Military History, Vol. 66, No. 3 (July 2002), p. 818.

69. 

Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979), p. 76.

70. 

Geoffrey Hamm, “British Intelligence in the Middle East, 1898–1906,” Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 29, No. 6 (2013), p. 1.

71. 

Hyam, Understanding the British Empire, p. 212.

72. 

Hyam, Britain's Imperial Century, 1815–1914, p. 184.

73. 

Ibid., p. 186.

74. 

Ibid., p. 185.

75. 

Hyam, Understanding the British Empire, p. 6.

76. 

Keith Wilson, “The Boer War in the Context of Britain's Imperial Problems,” in Wilson, The International Impact of the Boer War, p. 161.

77. 

Philip Towle, “The Russo-Japanese War and the Defence of India,” Military Affairs, Vol. 44, No. 3 (October 1980), p. 113.

78. 

Victor Gordon Kiernan, The Lords of Human Kind: European Attitudes towards the Outside World in the Imperial Age (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969), p. 315.

79. 

Towle, “The Russo-Japanese War and the Defence of India,” p. 111.

80. 

Suke Wolton, Lord Hailey, the Colonial Office, and the Politics of Race and Empire in the Second World War: The Loss of White Prestige (New York: St. Martin's, 2000), pp. 46–47.

81. 

John W. Dower, “Race, Language, and War in Two Cultures: World War II in Asia,” in Lewis A. Erenberg and Susan E. Hirsch, eds., The War in American Culture: Society and Consciousness during World War II (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1996), p. 186.

82. 

Kiernan, The Lords of Human Kind; Tapan Raychaudhuri, Perceptions, Emotions, Sensibilities: Essays on India's Colonial and Post-Colonial Experiences (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999); and John Iliffe, Honour in African History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

83. 

Wilson, “The Boer War in the Context of Britain's Imperial Problems,” p. 160.

84. 

Porter, The Origins of the South African War, p. 266.

85. 

Ramsay MacDonald, a future Labor prime minister, viewed the South African War as a “race war” between the British and the Boers that “cannot be explained as anything else.” The British turned their racist stereotypes of non-whites to the Boers; the Boers were white, but not white enough. For example, British journalist William Moneypenny described the Boers as “very Oriental, treacherous and cunning,” and British official Osmond Walrond believed that “[t]he Boers are like the Arabs and Turks. They have a large strain of Kaffir in them.” See Denis Judd and Keith Terrance Surridge, The Boer War (London: John Murray, 2002), p. 8; and Porter, The Origins of the South African War, pp. 191, 299 n. 54.

86. 

Pakenham, The Boer War, pp. 3–4.

87. 

Ibid., pp. xxii, 5.

88. 

Porter, The Origins of the South African War, p. 86.

89. 

David Steele, “Salisbury and the Soldiers,” in John Gooch, ed., The Boer War: Direction, Experience, and Image (London: Frank Cass, 2000), p. 6.

90. 

Pakenham, The Boer War, p. 103.

91. 

Ibid., p. 110.

92. 

The Boers won early engagements for four reasons. First, Boer offensives (such as taking Natal) surprised the British and ruined British strategy. Second, the Boers were highly motivated. They were fighting for their independence. Third, since the Jameson raid they had been importing rifles, ammunition, and modern artillery. Fourth, British forces lacked military skill. They were accustomed to punitive colonial expeditions against inferior opponents fighting with pre-modern weapons. Salisbury noted that other countries viewed the study of war and its demands as a priority, unlike Britain: “In this matter we enjoy splendid isolation.” Gen. Sir Redvers Buller (nicknamed Sir Reverse) led British forces incompetently. As Salisbury quipped, Buller “is not a bad soldier in peace.” See John Gooch, introduction to Gooch, The Boer War, p. xv; Judd and Surridge, The Boer War, pp. 64, 130; and Steele, “Salisbury and the Soldiers,” pp. 9, 13.

93. 

Judd and Surridge, The Boer War, p. 12.

94. 

Pakenham, The Boer War, p. 153.

95. 

Herbert Wrigley Wilson, With the Flag to Pretoria. A History of the Boer War of 1899–1900, Vol. 1 (London: Harmsworth Brothers, 1900), p. 207.

96. 

Keith Surridge, “Lansdowne at the War Office,” in Gooch, The Boer War, p. 32.

97. 

Quoted in London Times, in Liberal Unionist Association, Memoranda, pp. 22, 23.

98. 

Steele, “Salisbury and the Soldiers,” p. 19; and Pakenham, The Boer War, p. 38.

99. 

Algar Labouchere Thorold, The Life of Henry Labouchere (London: Constable, 1913), p. 333.

100. 

M.D. Blanch, “British Society and the War,” in Warwick, The South African War, p. 217.

101. 

Pakenham, The Boer War, p. 256.

102. 

Denis Condon, “Receiving News from the Seat of War: Dublin Audiences Respond to Boer War Entertainments,” Early Popular Visual Culture, Vol. 9, No. 2 (May 2011), p. 97.

103. 

Liberal Unionist Association, Memoranda, p. 31.

104. 

Better leadership (under Generals Roberts and Kitchener), better tactics gained from experience, and crushing numerical superiority led to a succession of British victories. When British victory seemed inevitable, the Boers switched in late 1900 to an insurgency strategy, prompting the British to shift to a counterinsurgency strategy: burning Boer farms and placing women and children in concentration camps. Radical members of Parliament introduced the term “concentration camp,” drawing the name from the notorious reconcentrado camps that the Spanish created for Cuban guerrillas in 1896. See Pakenham, The Boer War, p. 505.

105. 

Pakenham, The Boer War, p. 417.

106. 

Ibid., pp. 416–417.

107. 

Ibid., p. 417.

108. 

Blanch, “British Society and the War,” p. 218.

109. 

Judd and Surridge, The Boer War, p. 175.

110. 

Liberal Unionist Association, Memoranda, pp. 202–203.

111. 

John A. Hobson, The Psychology of Jingoism (London: G. Richards, 1901).

112. 

Ibid., pp. 77–78.

113. 

Ibid., pp. 18, 32.

114. 

Ibid., pp. 64–65.

115. 

Ibid., p. 66.

116. 

Ibid., pp. 36–37. British counterinsurgency tactics were controversial in Britain. Horrendous conditions in the concentration camps led to the deaths of at least 25,000 Boers. Conditions were even worse in segregated camps for blacks, though these camps generated no controversy. See Judd and Surridge, The Boer War, pp. 187–196; Pakenham, The Boer War, pp. 503–518; and Warwick, Black People and the South African War, 1899–1902, p. 146.

117. 

Hyam, Britain's Imperial Century, 1815–1914, pp. 245–246.

118. 

Pakenham, The Boer War, p. 416.

119. 

Donal P. McCracken, Forgotten Protest: Ireland and the Anglo-Boer War (Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation, 2003), pp. 144–145.

120. 

Ibid., p. 146.

121. 

Ibid., p. 145.

122. 

Ian McGibbon, “The Origins of New Zealand's South African Contribution,” in John Crawford and I.C. McGibbon, eds., One Flag, One Queen, One Tongue: New Zealand, the British Empire, and the South African War, 1899–1902 (Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland University Press, 2003), p. 3.

123. 

Ibid.

124. 

Craig Wilcox, Australia's Boer War: The War in South Africa, 1899–1902 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 18.

125. 

Ibid.

126. 

Stephen Clarke, “Desperately Seeking Service: The Australasian Commandants and the War,” in Crawford and McGibbon, One Flag, One Queen, One Tongue, p. 12.

127. 

Thomas Pakenham, “The Contribution of the Colonial Forces,” in Crawford and McGibbon, One Flag, One Queen, One Tongue, p. 62.

128. 

Seddon to Parliament, September 28, 1899, quoted in McGibbon, “The Origins of New Zealand's South African Contribution,” p. 9.

129. 

Pakenham, “The Contribution of the Colonial Forces,” p. 60.

130. 

Malcolm McKinnon, “Opposition to the War in New Zealand,” in Crawford and McGibbon, One Flag, One Queen, One Tongue, p. 42.

131. 

Craig Wilcox, “Australian Involvement in the Boer War: Imperial Pressure or Colonial Realpolitik?” in John Anthony Moses and Christopher Pugsley, eds., The German Empire and Britain's Pacific Dominions, 1871–1919: Essays on the Role of Australia and New Zealand in World Politics in the Age of Imperialism (Claremont, Calif.: Regina, 2000), p. 198.

132. 

Brisbane Courier, January 19, 1900, quoted in ibid., p. 201.

133. 

Wilson, With the Flag to Pretoria, Vol. 1, p. 229.

134. 

Colin McGeorge, “The Social and Geographical Composition of the New Zealand Contingents,” in Crawford and McGibbon, One Flag, One Queen, One Tongue, p. 102.

135. 

John Crawford, “The Best Mounted Troops in South Africa?” in Crawford and McGibbon, One Flag, One Queen, One Tongue, p. 73.

136. 

John Crawford, “The Impact of the War on the New Zealand Military Forces and Society,” in Crawford and McGibbon, One Flag, One Queen, One Tongue, p. 207.

137. 

Ibid.

138. 

Craig Wilcox, “The Australian Perspective on the War,” in Crawford and McGibbon, One Flag, One Queen, One Tongue, p. 152.

139. 

Ibid., p. 158; and Wilcox, Australia's Boer War, p. 106.

140. 

Wilcox, Australia's Boer War, p. 44.

141. 

Carman Miller, Painting the Map Red: Canada and the South African War, 1899–1902 (Montreal: Canadian War Museum and McGill-Queen's University Press, 1993), p. 32.

142. 

Ibid., pp. 17–20.

143. 

Ibid., pp. 26–28; Carman Miller, “The Montreal Flag Riot,” in Crawford and McGibbon, One Flag, One Queen, One Tongue, pp. 165–166.

144. 

Miller, Painting the Map Red, p. 48.

145. 

Ibid., p. 40.

146. 

Ibid., p. 441.

147. 

Ibid., pp. 425–428, 437.

148. 

Ibid., p. 440.

149. 

Ibid., p. 437.

150. 

Ibid., p. 438.

151. 

Ibid., p. 439.

152. 

Stuart Anderson, “Racial Anglo-Saxonism and the American Response to the Boer War,” Diplomatic History, Vol. 2, No. 3 (1978), p. 221.

153. 

William N. Tilchin, “The United States and the Boer War,” in Wilson, The International Impact of the Boer War, p. 109.

154. 

Anderson, “Racial Anglo-Saxonism and the American Response to the Boer War,” p. 231.

155. 

Charles S. Campbell Jr., Anglo-American Understanding, 1898–1903 (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins Press, 1957), p. 185.

156. 

Ibid., p. 192.

157. 

Ibid., p. 193.

158. 

Tilchin, “The United States and the Boer War,” p. 112.

159. 

Anderson, “Racial Anglo-Saxonism and the American Response to the Boer War,” p. 232.

160. 

Tilchin, “The United States and the Boer War,” p. 110; and Henry Wilson, “The United States and the War,” in Warwick, The South African War, p. 320.

161. 

Tilchin, “The United States and the Boer War,” p. 111.

162. 

Ibid.

163. 

Ibid.

164. 

Anderson, “Racial Anglo-Saxonism and the American Response to the Boer War,” p. 227.

165. 

Harper's Weekly reprinted in Literary Digest, Vol. 20 (January 1900), quoted in ibid.

166. 

Ibid., p. 230.

167. 

Alfred Thayer Mahan, Retrospect and Prospect: Studies in International Relations, Naval and Political (Boston: Little, Brown, 1902), pp. 66, 74, 77.

168. 

Ibid., p. 82.

169. 

Richard B. Mulanax, The Boer War in American Politics and Diplomacy (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1994), p. 141.

170. 

Ibid., p. 113.

171. 

Wilson, “The United States and the War,” p. 318.

172. 

Úna Ní Bhroiméil, “The South African War, Empire, and the Irish World, 1899–1902,” in Simon James Potter, ed., Newspapers and Empire in Ireland and Britain: Reporting the British Empire, c.1857–1921 (Dublin: Four Courts, 2004), p. 200.

173. 

Ibid., pp. 202–203.

174. 

Hay letter to the U.S. Minister at The Hague, December 3, 1900, quoted in Anderson, “Racial Anglo-Saxonism and the American Response to the Boer War,” p. 235.

175. 

Derek Spring, “Russian Foreign Policy and the Boer War,” in Wilson, The International Impact of the Boer War, pp. 48–49.

176. 

Ibid., p. 54.

177. 

Vladimir Holmstrem and Prince Ookhtomsky, “Great Britain on the War-Path,” North American Review, Vol. 170, No. 518 (1900), p. 35.

178. 

Kiernan, The Lords of Human Kind, pp. 101–102.

179. 

Hyam, Britain's Imperial Century, 1815–1914, p. 318; and Kiernan, The Lords of Human Kind, p. 97.

180. 

Spring, “Russian Foreign Policy and the Boer War,” p. 58.

181. 

Ibid.

182. 

Pascal Venier, “French Foreign Policy and the Boer War,” in Wilson, The International Impact of the Boer War, pp. 66–67.

183. 

French naval attaché report of conversation with Cambon, October 29, 1899, quoted in ibid., p. 76.

184. 

Ibid., p. 69.

185. 

Cambon to Delcassé, December 19, 1900, paraphrased by Steele, “Salisbury and the Soldiers,” p. 3.

186. 

Hatzfeldt to Holstein, August 6, 1899, in Norman Rich and M.H. Fisher, eds., The Holstein Papers: The Memoirs, Diaries, and Correspondence of Friedrich Von Holstein, Vol. 4: Correspondence 1897–1909 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963), p. 149.

187. 

Hatzfeldt to Holstein, October 3, 1899, in Rich and Fisher, The Holstein Papers, Vol. 4, p. 158.

188. 

Holstein quoted in Martin Kröger, “Imperial Germany and the Boer War: From Colonial Fantasies to the Reality of Anglo-German Estrangement,” in Wilson, The International Impact of the Boer War, p. 28.

189. 

Ibid., p. 31.

190. 

Ibid., p. 37.

191. 

Ibid., pp. 29–33; and Campbell, Anglo-American Understanding, 1898–1903.

192. 

Holstein quoted in Kröger, “Imperial Germany and the Boer War,” p. 31.

193. 

Von Bülow minute in Eckardstein to Holstein, December 21, 1899, in Rich and Fisher, The Holstein Papers, Vol. 4, p. 173.

194. 

Ibid., p. 174.

195. 

Wolff-Metternich to von Bülow, June 1, 1900, quoted in Steele, “Salisbury and the Soldiers,” p. 3; and Wolff-Metternich to von Bülow, June 24, 1900, quoted in Steele, “Salisbury and the Soldiers,” pp. 19–20.

196. 

Kaiser to the King, May 2, 1902, quoted in Pakenham, The Boer War, p. 564.

197. 

Etzioni, “International Prestige, Competition, and Peaceful Coexistence”; and Lebow, Why Nations Fight.

198. 

Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Obama Doctrine,” Atlantic, April 2016, pp. 76, 87.