Cecil John Rhodes may be the most important man you never heard about if you were educated in the United States of America. His death in 1902 at the age of 48 was followed by the largest memorial every recorded on the continent of Africa. He expanded the British Empire more than any other man; adding almost 1 million square miles (2.6 million square kilometers). His achievement was so great a country larger than most of Europe was named after him. Yet, less than one hundred years later many came to vilify him. His namesake countries has become Zambia and Zimbabwe.
How does a sickly preacher's son rise to his levels in politics and business? His legacy at de Beers still controls world diamond prices. Rhodes: The Race for Africa looks into these issues with one of the most objective views possible.
Rhodes: The Race for Africa can be a challenging book to read. Most people will be looking up definitions on a regular basis. In addition to the challenging vocabulary, the differences between an American writer and one of British decent are awkward at times.
The book uses many citations in its 352 pages. The bibliography is an excellent resource for anyone wishing to delve more deeply into Cecil Rhodes and the events around his life. Thankfully the citations are just a superscript number and not a longer traditional author/title, page format. This helps the flow for those not immediately concerned about the source material.
The author Anthony Thomas gives us a very well researched and unbiased look at Rhodes. He points out clearly where his information comes from, mostly first hand accounts (primary sources), and what bias the source may have had. On occasion he will look at the opinions of other bibliographers who wrote about Cecil Rhodes. This was interesting to see how attitudes and opinions changed based on the time period and how more was found out about Rhodes. After reading this book you will feel like you have an honest look at Rhodes and what transpired around him.
Nicely dispersed throughout the book are many pictures and a few sketches. It's a pleasant surprise to turn the page and see a picture of the mining camp or what Jameson's Raiders looked like at the time. What would have been nice it to have more maps showing the different stages of his expansion. This would be especially helpful for those not intimately familiar with southern African geography.
Chapters are divided into themes or events. Generally easy to follow but a departure from the normal timeline based history (chronological). To Thomas's credit, where important events overlap in different parts of the book his gives you page references. Also, he writes a brief sentence or two to refresh your memory that is very helpful.
"Every man has his Price," as Cecil Rhodes was fond of saying. This is something he proved time and again in his quest. Money alone did not put him in a position where he could dictate to the British Crown. No, it was his ability to talk with anyone regardless of class, race, or religion and get that person to see things his way. The book covers several examples where he would engage with people for days. Upon his leaving they saw things Rhodes's way.
Rhodes, despite his great successes, said on his deathbed, "So little done. So much to do." Over the years he came to believe in the expansion of the British Empire. In his mind and that of many other people of the period British rule was good for the "savages". It is easy to see why in their minds. They would educate, convert to Christianity, give them a common language, and show them modern ways of production and trade. As the reader progresses through the book they will be presented with events that question the magnanimity of the empire builders.
Rhodes' South Africa evolved into what was known for as apartheid. A small minority of whites ruled over the indigenous black population. As common sense will tell you, the few cannot control the many without the threat or use of force. Understanding the series of "harmless" injuries to freedom can turn into near slavery is not the theme of the book. It will be what many patriot readers can take away from reading this book. No, the bigger ideas that should worry the SurvivalBlog reader are the corrupting influences of power and the world will turn out another like Cecil Rhodes.