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Diamonds, Gold, and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa Paperback – September 23, 2008
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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"Despite the depth of scholarly research it contains, this book reads not as dry history but as a vivid and thrilling account of the forging of southern Africa into its present distinctive shape and character. Martin Meredith captures the colours and textures of the land and brings to life the extraordinary figures who peopled it and whose influence lingers on. His descriptions of Rhodes and Kruger, of Robinson and Barnato and all the other actors, rogues and heroes of this epic drama played out upon the scorched African veldt are filled with fascinating insights and rich with anecdotes which bring them bursting from these pages. This is a book that will take a prominent place upon my bookshelf and which I know I will re-read time and again over the years ahead." -- Wilbur Smith, author of The Quest and River God
"Enthralling....Martin Meredith has made good use not only of recent scholarly work by also of contemporary sources... [Meredith] tells the story lucidly so that the reader can draw his own moral." -- The Spectator, October 31, 2007
"Meredith offers an unvarnished portrait of what might be called 'Britain's worst hour... Diamonds, Gold, and War is a fine history of the formation of the most powerful country in Africa. It will certainly make uncomfortable reading for Rhodes' scholars, who may be shocked to learn of the bloodshed caused by the man whose name they wear with pride." -- The American, October 26, 2007
"No stone is left unturned in this dynamic analysis of an intriguing period in African history." -- Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2007
"[an] astute history... Meredith expertly shows how the exigencies of the diamond (and then gold) rush laid the foundation for apartheid." -- New Yorker, October 8, 2007
"engrossing...Anyone interested in African history and the British Empire will find this book fascinating." -- Winnipeg Free Press, October 7, 2007
"A many-faceted, sensibly incisive overview of events that could easily be oversimplified, and have been in earlier accounts." -- New York Times, November 29, 2007 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Now take this and add a cast of characters that include Winston Churchill, H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, and Gandhi, in bit appearances and you have the makings of a whale of tale. And, that's what Meredith gives us. Now most of us know there was a Boer War and before that the Jameson Raid but those events are covered in only a handful of pages. The great majority of the book covers all other aspects of the creation of the Union of South Africa. It's all the stuff that leads up to the military part that Meredith details, and yes there is bribery, back-stabbing, crooked business practices, and everything else you would expect in some old black and white film noir movie.
Add to this insights to the different personalities and it gets even better. Rhodes, for example, never married, was uncomfortable around women (maybe a misogynist) and his only long term relationship with a woman ended in law suits, attempted blackmail, and forgery. There is no evidence of any sexual relationship. In addition Rhodes thought that everyone had his price and he bribed politicians, newspaper editors, and even clergymen. What a guy!
Throw in concentration camps and scorched earth and you've got a heckeva story. One telling fact though is that soon after the Boer War the Brits learned from their success and began plotting a second war for economic gain, this in 1905. Here, however, the target was a little bigger. Yes Churchill was a plotter and yes Kipling wrote anti-German propaganda for American consumption. It seems history does repeat itself.
Now the book is long but the chapters are short and usually end with a punch line or promo for the next chapter. For anyone, like me, with tri-focals the print is large and paper and binding is good quality. Five stars for great insight into historical human nature.
It was a key event in understanding what came latter in Europe and America.
Cecil Rhodes comes off more impressive than I anticipated but without a doubt, one of the strangest men in history.
Much of the book is devoted to him as a key element of the story but also as a vehicle of telling the story of diamond and gold mining, the abject racism that permeated every event, but also the heroic will of the whites in the face of their confrontation with a wild and very very dangerous place, full of potential.
As an American I could not help but think of our moving American Indians off their land, just as brutally and this helped to realize that really, there was not much difference, to a degree they both were genocidal acts.
Europeans had the technology and the organization and the desire and although in both cases the natives were sometimes laudable in words, even moral, it was assumed that the gulf was so complete as to power, that God had ordained the brutal changes and the acts of violence even. This is a bit of oversimplification but... you will too have the same thoughts no doubt.
How could in fact, America or South Africa have been settled without some brutality given the massive gulf of technology and the mind set of the time? Even today it is hard to envisage how that could have happened no matter how immoral we think it today or superior we thing we are. In fact those races are still dominated. This is fact.
Only after the settlement could morality come. That said, the brutality is raw and the racism is of another time... or is it?
The strange power of Lord Milner who somehow in the future does take over the Rhodes' fortune after his death apparently... and he implements Rhodes' secret society... to better the world via British domination culturally if not in reality. He has a strange power to counter time after time at the end of this story... rational and more moral heads in London... but something on high... counters that. I suspect that it is the Bank of England, the real power behind the throne, that wanted those diamonds and that always appealing G O L D. "Jewish Capitalists," is mention once only that I remember and that is in one of the final paragraphs of the book.
But before we get to that, the settlement of the area... always moving ancient black tribes off their land... is an ageless story of brutal power and too of magnificent dreams.