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This study analyzes the readiness of the British military establishment for war in 1899 and its performance in the South African War (1899-1902). It focuses on the career of Field Marshal Paul Sanford, 3rd Baron Methuen, whose traditional military training, used so effectively in Queen Victoria's small wars, was put to the test by the modern challenges of the South African War. A subsidiary aim of this work is to correct and refine the historical consensus that Methuen's campaing in the South African War was plagued by practical errors and poor judgement. The South African War was a crucial transitional episode in the history of the British army. Unlike Great Britain's other expeditions, it required the concentrated resources of the entire empire. It was a modern war in the sense that it employed the technology, the weaponry, the communications, and the transportation of the second industrial revolution. Through detailed analyses of Methuen's campaigns, this study demonstrates that both Methuen and the British Army were not prepared for modern warfare.
Despite this, Methuen and the British officer class were able to make the necessary transition to defeat the Boers and propel the British army into the twentieth century.