Cecil Rhodes was the founder of the De Beer diamond company in South Africa, and was for many years the Prime Minister of Cape Town Colony. He is often represented as an evil caricature of British Imperialism, but of course, the reality is far more complicated. Rhodes made his fortune mostly through speculation, finance, and the creation of a diamond cartel, but these were common business practices in his age. Personally, he was a man of simple tastes and used virtually his entire fortune on projects that he believed would benefit "mankind". He made his fortune while still in his twenties, and from that point on, left his business mostly in the hands of his partners. His personal, over-riding interest was politics, not finance, and he worked tirelessly towards his vision of a Unified South Africa under British rule.
Cecil Rhodes came from a large farming family in England. He was sent to South Africa as a teenager for his health, but soon left his brother's farm for the diamond fields of Kimberley. He made his initial fortune by buying up worthless claims that had been flooded, pumping water out of them, and then reselling them. When the diamond market went through a depression in 1874-75, he and a partner were able to buy up hundreds of claims very cheaply that later proved to be worth a great deal. They incorporated as the De Beers Mining company in 1880, and by that time controlled enough of the diamond market to set prices. Remarkably, during the same time he was building his business, Rhodes returned periodically to Britain to attend Oxford University and there acquired his exalted view of the merits of British Civilization.
When only thirty years old and the richest man in South Africa, Rhodes was elected to Parliament and became Prime Minister of Cape Colony. He favored policies that encouraged commerce and settlement. His idea of "imperialism" was essentially just a commonwealth, with low tariffs, little regulation, and minimal interference from the central government in colonial affairs. On the other hand, he was utterly convinced of the necessity of stamping out the independent Boer republics that were "in the way" of a United South Africa.
By the time Rhodes came to power, Britain already controlled some of the territory in the Great Lakes region, as well as the Southernmost region of Africa. In order to unify these territories, the regions surrounding the Zambezi river, which Livingstone had explored a generation earlier needed to be brought under British domination. Rhodes took personal control of the matter by obtaining a charter that allowed him to treat with the natives on behalf of Britain. He thereby in established first Bechuanaland, then Metabeland as British Protectorates, and these territories (modern Zambia and Zimbabwe) were later referred to as Rhodesia.
In 1886 gold was discovered in one of the Boer Republics and within 10 years thousands of settlers, many of the British, had moved to the region. Rhodes believed that if he could inspire a rebellion among the settlers, he could induce them to overthrow the Boer government. An associate of Rhodes by the name of Jameson crossed the border with an armed force, but utterly failed to incite a rebellion. Rhodes was rightly blamed for the disaster, and was forced to resign in disgrace as Prime Minister. He then left Cape town, went to live in Rhodesia and did all he could to encourage white settlement and the development of commerce in the region. Meanwhile back in South Africa, the disastrous Boer War broke out, largely as a result of Rhode's interference in the region, and his passionate insistence that a unified South Africa was imperative for British interests. Rhodes did not live to see the resolution of the conflict. He died in 1902 in Cape Town, leaving his enormous estate to the University of Oxford, and the government of South Africa.
|Cecil Rhodes born into an English farming family.|
|Traveled with his brother to South Africa for 'health' reasons.|
|Set out for the diamond mines near Kimberly. Bought and sold claims.|
|Returned to Britain to study for one term at Oxford.|
|Back in Kimberly. Consolidated holdings during a 'depression' in diamond prices.|
|Back to Oxford to complete his studies.|
|Founded De Beers Mining company with Charles Rudd.|
|Elected to Parliament in Cape Town.|
|Established Bechuanaland (Zambia) as a British protectorate.|
|Gold discovered in the Boer's Transvaal.|
|Became Prime Minister of Cape Colony.|
|War with Matabeles lead to colonization of Metabelands (Zimbabwe).|
|Supported the failed Jameson Raid in Transvaal, caused Rhodes to resign as Prime Minister.|
|Moved to Metabaland, (later Rhodesia), in order to help settle the region.|
|Second Boer War Begins.|
|Cecil Rhode dies in Cape Town.|
|Death of Cecil Rhodes|
|Johannesburg Gold Fields in||Oom Paul's People by Howard C. Hillegas|
|Cecil John Rhodes in||Oom Paul's People by Howard C. Hillegas|
|Story about a Pretty Stone in||Our Empire Story by H. E. Marshall|
|War and Peace in||Our Empire Story by H. E. Marshall|
|Dream of Cecil Rhodes in||Growth of the British Empire by M. B. Synge|
|Founding of Rhodesia in||Growth of the British Empire by M. B. Synge|
|Cecil Rhodes in Rhodesia in||The Reign of Queen Victoria by M. B. Synge|
The Rt. Hon. Cecil J. Rhodes on the piazza of his residence
in Oom Paul's People
in The Reign of Queen Victoria
|Paul Kruger||Boer leader who resisted British rule, and was president of the Transvaal Republic.|
|Dr. Jameson||Friend and associate of Rhodes that led the failed Jameson raid in Transvaal.|
|Charles Rudd||Formed De Beers Mining Company with Rhodes.|
|Robert Moffet||Influential missionary in region of Bechuanaland. In-law of David Livingstone.|
|Rothchilds||Banking family that helped finance Rhodes cartel of the diamond market.|
|Barney Barnato||Diamond speculator that competed with Rhodes for control of Kimberly mines.|