Major Antedating of "Concentration Camp"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sun Feb 3 15:57:01 UTC 2013

It is not often that an antedating removes a significant stain from the history of a major nation, but this one does that (not that it improves the British record in the Boer War, but at least it can no longer be said that the British invented the "concentration camp").

concentration camp (OED 1901)

1897 _Louisville Courier-Journal_ 17 July 9 (ProQuest Historical Newspapers)  "If the United States does not come to the help of this people more than 100,000 of them will perish in a month."  This is from a letter written by an American citizen living in the province of Santa Clara, Cuba.  The horrors of Weyler's concentration policy have been pictured in strong colors, but it seems as if the worst has not yet been realized.  "In the beginning of the concentration," this American writes, "the people driven into the; towns were occasionally allowed to go to the country on passes and search for food to bring back to camp.   Having such passes, they sometimes escaped the notice of the scouting parties.  Now, however, the Spanish columns have received orders from Weyler to shoot any one, whether furnished with a pass or not, wherever found outside of the concentration camp.

[NOTE: This article appears to be reprinted from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat]

Fred Shapiro

The American Dialect Society -

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