The British Empire

Talk on ‘Cecil Rhodes’

It was Cecil Rhodes who believed that: "we are the finest race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit, the better it is for the human race. Jut fancy: those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimens if human beings, what an alteration there would be if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence". Rhodes ideas were well received in Britain which in the 1890s was embracing 'New Imperialism'.

In the short period of five and a half years between July 1890 and January 1896 Rhodes had established the International Diamond Syndicate that fixed prices and controlled the world's supply. He had consolidated his interests in the Witwatersrand and built a second fortune in gold. He had occupied Mashonaland, and waged war against the Portuguese. He had destroyed Matabele military power, added Barotsland (Zambia) to his company's possessions, gained exclusive mineral rights throughout Bechuanaland and effectively secured Nyasaland for Britain. He had linked his and Britain's African possessions by telegraph, pushed the railway line north from Cape Town to the Matabele frontier. Between 17 July 1890 and 12 January 1896  Rhodes was also running a country for he was Prime Minister of Cape Colony.

As Prime Minister, Rhodes drew up a blueprint for a new South Africa-a plan devised by and for capitalists which planned to solve the nation's labour difficulties by confining rural Africans to tribal reserves and imposing a tax on every hut. To survive Africans would have to enter the cash economy and sell their labour to whites. Together with these changes Rhodes imposed apartheid in the towns-non-whites now experienced segregation in schools, prisons, hospitals, theatres and on public transport. They were disqualified from jury service and removed in their thousands form the electoral rolls.

The deep level Randlords under the leadership of Rhodes became convinced that Kruger's regime had to be overthrown. They were to use the issue of the lack of political rights of the mine workers to put pressure on Kruger, pressure that was used by Milner and Rhodes to persuade the British government to wage war against the Boers.

This talk explains Rhodes' rise to power in south Africa, his attempt to bring about a coup in Johannesburg and his role in the Boer War. Rhodes was a giant of the Empire and although his views are now distasteful was regarded as a great Imperialist at the end of the c19th.

For more information on Cecil Rhodes, click here

Cecil Rhodes