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Diamonds, Gold, and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa Paperback – Sep 22 2008

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (Sept. 23 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586486411
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586486419
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 3.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #52,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

About the Author

Martin Meredith is a journalist, biographer, and historian who has written extensively on Africa and its recent history. His previous books include Mugabe and The Fate of Africa. He lives near Oxford, England.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The author does a fantastic job of breaking down the history of southern Africa and how the parties involved--the British, the Boers and the native Africans--were a volatile mix especially when you throw in diamonds, gold and the Boers manifest destiny vs. the Brits in imperialistic mode. This is a tale that Hollywood could not make up.

What I still found curious was trying to figure out how all these groups were able to communicate with each other when they often did not speak the others' languages. Also, how were people able to take months of time from their lives to sail to Britain to deal with diplomatic stuff face-to-face there?

Definitely an eye opener in showing how greed, missteps and the arrogant British led to the establishment of the apartheid nation of South Africa run by the Boers who, let's face facts, were an incredibly backward and insular group of twisted religious nutjob outcasts from Dutch society.

Given the situation in central Africa now and the millions who have died over the struggle to control the mineral wealth there, it seems Africans are not just following, but continuing down this disastrous historical path that began in South Africa.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This well researched book provides a detailed look at the discovery of gold and diamonds in South Africa and the consequences that were visited on that unhappy country.
It demonstrates how, over a century ago, a powerful nation could easily come up with largely spurious reasons to invade a small country and secure access to some of the richest goldfields in the world. As it turned out, they bit off a lot more than they could chew. Also they could not find any weapons of mass destruction!

Mr Meredith has written extensively on Africa and pulls no punches. His books Mugabe and The Fate of Africa are essential reading for anyone interested in Africa.Mugabe: Power, Plunder, and the Struggle for Zimbabwe's Future
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa9fa4dc8) out of 5 stars 43 reviews
65 of 69 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa9fe2a50) out of 5 stars A brilliant book Dec 17 2007
By Seth J. Frantzman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best histories of Africa written in modern times from one of Africa's greatest chroniclers. A vast history of Southern Africa from 1871 to 1911 this is an epic tale of greed, settlement and war set amongst some fo the most colorful peoples and characters of the period. Mostly the book examines the personalities of Cecil Rhodes and Paul Kruger and the clash of the English and the Afrikaners. But it is bigger in scope than that. Blending history covered elsewhere(The Great Anglo-Boer War and The Scramble for Africa: White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876-1912, The Washing of the Spears: A History of the Rise of the Zulu Nation Under Shaka and Its Fall in the Zulu War of 1879) it also has an incisive and balanced view of the history, without judgement, this is more a tale of tragedy, in the Greek form, than mere history.

History at its best in fact. The book moves from the discovery of diamonds near Kimberly in 1871, to the battle for the control of the 'road north' to modern day Zambia and the final destruction of Afrikaner freedom in the Boer War. All the while in the background is the developing race issues and multitude of diversity that would chance Africa forever in the 20th century.

For students of African history this will be a rivetting read and for those looking for an introduction to the history of Southern Africa they will be pleasently suprised.

Seth J. Frantzman
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa9fe2f60) out of 5 stars This book made me angry and ashamed - but read it, please! March 5 2008
By Geoffrey Woollard - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have read several books (though certainly not enough) about South Africa: 'The Great Boer War,' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; 'The Corner House,' by A.P. Cartwright; 'The Randlords,' by Geoffrey Wheatcroft; 'White Tribe Dreaming,' by Marq de Villiers; 'The Boer War,' by Thomas Pakenham; and 'The Covenant,' by James A. Michener, but until I got into my latest purchase, 'Diamonds, Gold and War,' by Martin Meredith, I was not entirely sure why I had become more than sympathetic to the old Boers and to Afrikanerdom.

Mr Meredith has given me all of the necessary reasons and, as a life-time admirer of the British Empire and its works, I was made more firmly angry and ashamed at what some of those ostensibly promoting the Empire had done to those to whom the British people should have been attached and who should not have been antagonised and attacked.

Cecil Rhodes's dream of colonising from The Cape to Cairo had great merit, especially if one recalls to what depths much of Africa has descended since Rhodes's day, but it was clearly a gross mistake and an unforgivable deed to betray his Cape Boer friend, Jan Hofmeyr, and his potential friends, President Paul Kruger of The Transvaal and President Marthinus Steyn of The Orange Free State. Rhodes comes out of the book badly, as do his co-conspirator, Dr. Leander Starr Jameson, the British Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, and, worst of all, the British High Commissioner and Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Alfred Milner.

And, of course, there were the thousands of British soldiers lost (my wife's late grandfather, a wonderful man, volunteered for the Imperial Yeomanry, went enthusiastically to South Africa, but, thankfully, survived this shameful Imperial episode), and the thousands of Boer 'soldiers,' their wives and their children who suffered either in the war (to be more precise, the Second Boer War) or in British concentration camps. It was a disgrace and several passages in Mr Meredith's book moves one almost to tears. The description of the elderly President Kruger's leaving of Pretoria for eventual exile on the 29th of May, 1900, leaving his beloved but infirm wife, Gezina, is one such and merits partial quotation:

'After conducting family prayers in the sitting room, Kruger took his wife's hand and led her into the bedroom. Nobody spoke or moved. Outside the carriage horses snorted. Then the old couple reappeared. Kruger pressed her against him, then released her, looking at her intently, silently. Then he turned and walked out to the carriage. They were never to meet again.'

I am old enough to have known a number of honourable men who went off to fight 'Old Kroojer': they were misguided, misled and mistaken. That Jan Christian Smuts later became one of the Empire's best friends is a fine reflection of Boer qualities, but the bitterness bequeathed by such as Milner did no good to Britain nor to the longer-term benefit of South Africa or its inhabitants, black or white.

I can only touch on some aspects of a brilliant and well-written history: to get the drift in its entirety, you have to get the book which, with 569 pages, is wonderful value!

For a great rendering of the old Boer song, 'Sarie Marais,' sung in Afrikaans, go to - [...]

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa9fe2fd8) out of 5 stars A gripping chronicle of greed and destruction unleashed Nov. 3 2007
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Journalist, biographer, and historian Martin Meredith presents Diamonds, Gold, and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa, a thorough history of the Cape Colony in southern Africa from when the British took possession of it in 1806 to the founding of modern South Africa in 1910. The chronicle heats up in 1871, when diamonds were discovered in southern Africa - in tremendous quantities. A massive struggle between the British and the Boers for control of the region erupted. Meredith's narrative is heavily researched yet comes alive with colorful portrayals of personalities ranging from rakish prospector Cecil Rhodes (founder of the DeBeers company) who absconded with a fortune manipulating diamond and gold markets, to nationalists like Paul Kruger who fought tirelessly for their land and people, to native kings like Lobengula who were trapped amid the Europeans' struggle. A gripping chronicle of greed and destruction unleashed, and the repercussions for the nation of South Africa for the century to come, highly recommended for world history shelves.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa9fea384) out of 5 stars The Making of South Africa Feb. 18 2008
By R. Sidique - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Martin Meredith's aptly named book recounts the events leading up to the formation of the Union of South Africa. The introduction provides a quick background about the coming of the Dutch and then the British to the Cape, the Great Trek, the formation of the Boer Republics, and the colonization of Natal. The story begins in earnest with the discovery of diamonds north of the Cape. It continues with tales of fortunes made and lost, of the coming of the mining magnates and the rise of Cecil Rhodes, of the subsequent discovery of gold in the Transvaal. We learn about the wars against the Zulus, the Tswana, the Basotho, the Ndebele, the taking of their land, the formation of the British South Africa Company, and the making of Rhodesia. We find out about Rhodes' thirst for power and the hubris that led to the Jameson Raid. Then came the scheming and deception that led to the Anglo-Boer War--a war that wrought terrible suffering, particularly upon the Boers. The British won the war only to give self-government to the Boer territories five years later. This was shortly followed by the formation of the Union of South Africa, essentially a union of the whites of South Africa. The `native' policies stipulated by this union would lead to increasingly devastating laws against non-whites, and particularly against blacks. The period covered by the book is filled with interesting events and interesting people. And because Meredith writes beautifully, the book reads almost like a novel.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa9fea4bc) out of 5 stars A Page Turning Serious History June 13 2008
By Loves the View - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Very few histories of this depth and detail can sustain 500+ pages and keep the reader as engaged as though s/he were reading a thriller. This book is one of them.

Some of Martin Meredith's talent is in describing the main characters. Portraits of Cecil Rhodes and Paul Kruger are masterpieces. His other talent is describing the settings for instance, the respective cultures of the settlers, the freewheeling diamond/gold rushes and the devastation of war. The marvelous descriptions sustain the reader through the dry but important financial dealings, military maneuvers, and legal complexities.

There are very few women in this book. Queen Victoria gets a few mentions, as does a female novelist, Paul Kruger's traditional wife and a stalker attracted to Rhodes. The plight of the Boar women left homeless and confined in camps is addressed, but there is nothing of the native African women. Hopefully future historians will explore the lives and roles of women in this period.

Two things about the history of South Africa are striking. One is how a very small number of people in key positions wanting war made it inevitable that many would suffer its devastating consequences. The other is the total racism of the Bible quoting Boars and the aquiescence of the British government to their racist demands. The Archbishop of Canterbury endorses what becomes the apartheid system with the salve to his conscience that the future will undo it.

This is a sorry, sorry story. It is a story of the making and execution of a completely unnecessary war and a step by step degradation of a native population.

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