Major Antedating of "Concentration Camp"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sun Feb 3 18:10:02 UTC 2013

Thanks for pointing this out, Jon.  Wikipedia also notes concentration camps (the thing, not the term) run by Russia in Poland in the 18th century, by the United States for Cherokees and other Native Americans in the 1830s, and by Spain in Cuba in the Ten Years' War (1868-1878).

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Jonathan Lighter [wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Sunday, February 03, 2013 12:44 PM
Subject: Re: Major Antedating of "Concentration Camp"

>It is not often that an antedating removes a significant stain from the
tory of a major nation, ...

Gee, I thought everybody knew this about the Spanish in Cuba.  I learned it
in high-school American history.

The claim that the British invented the "concentration camp" originally
came from the Germans, AFAIK..


On Sun, Feb 3, 2013 at 10:57 AM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Shapiro, Fred" <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Major Antedating of "Concentration Camp"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> It is not often that an antedating removes a significant stain from the
> his=
> tory of a major nation, but this one does that (not that it improves the
> Br=
> itish record in the Boer War, but at least it can no longer be said that
> th=
> e 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
> horr=
> ors of Weyler's concentration policy have been pictured in strong colors,
> b=
> ut it seems as if the worst has not yet been realized.  "In the beginning
> o=
> f the concentration," this American writes, "the people driven into the;
> to=
> wns 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
> t=
> he 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-Democr=
> at]
> Fred Shapiro
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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