Biographical Background (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Born and educated in England, Cecil John Rhodes went, in 1870, to live at his brother’s cotton farm in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of southern Africa for health reasons. Diamond finds in Kimberley lured him into the interior. Between intermittent returns to England, Rhodes began amassing a considerable private fortune in diamonds and gold. He used his wealth to enter politics and serve in the Cape Colony Parliament, from which he expanded his own personal and British national influence throughout southern Africa, hoping to create telegraph and rail links from Cape Town to Cairo.
Rhodes had little regard for the native peoples and applied pressure and subterfuge to obtain mineral rights and territorial concessions. Rhodes’s British South Africa Company, created by consolidating his claims, functioned as a quasi government over large portions of southern Africa. In 1890, he became prime minister of Cape Colony (now in South Africa), and he held sway over what would later become Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) with his economic and political power. His overreaching ambition caused him a major setback when the Jameson Raid (1895-1896), his attempt to overthrow the Dutch Boer territory, failed, and he resigned as prime minister. He participated in the Boer War (1899-1902) and was present during the Siege of Kimberley, but he died before the war ended.
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Impact on Resource Use (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
In southern Africa, Rhodes had an impact on three major global resources: cotton, diamonds, and gold. His impact on cotton was brief, as he left his brother’s cotton farm to head into the interior for the diamond fields at Kimberley. Rhodes and the miners had little concern for the environment; Rhodes’s focus was to acquire claims, which he did with remarkable success. Once the most accessible diamonds had been worked, economic depression set in, and Rhodes purchased claims from disappointed miners. He also procured the contracts for pumping water out of the mines in the rainy season and providing water during the dry season for washing diamonds. This consolidation of mining into a large-scale operation eventually led to the creation of the De Beers mining company, which at one time controlled nearly 90 percent of the world’s diamond supply.
With the discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand in 1886, a gold rush ensued, and the easily accessible gold was quickly mined. As he had done at the Kimberley diamond fields, Rhodes, on behalf of his Gold Field Company of South Africa, purchased claims from disappointed prospectors who thought that the supply of gold had been exhausted. Using his political leverage, Rhodes extended his control of potential mineral rights by duplicitous negotiations with native tribal leaders.
As prime minister of Cape Colony, Rhodes introduced the Glen Grey Act (1894), passed by the...
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