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Diamonds, Gold, and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa Paperback – Sep 22 2008
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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
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.
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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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
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 - [...]
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.