The Last Empire: De Beers, Diamonds, and the World Summary

Stefan Kanfer

The Last Empire

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

There seems little doubt that a clandestine organization with ties to the island of Sicily influences the economic life of this and a number of countries. The impact of this organization is all the more impressive inasmuch as its activities are traditionally shrouded in mystery. It is also true that a secretive organization based in South Africa affects the international economy in a pervasive manner which is quite often a matter of speculation. Periodically, both the Mafia and De Beers Consolidated Mines are subject to examination and investigation. Responsible journalists examine the impact of these organizations on the international scene and their less honorable brethren present sensational narratives which accord both groups near-mythical powers. In neither instance, however, can those who scrutinize the activities of these organizations assert that more than a modest amount of pure speculation is required to make their case.

Kanfer can speak with substantial authority about the early days in the diamond fields of South Africa, the legendary Cecil Rhodes, and even the organizational development of De Beers and its gold-mining twin—the Anglo-American Corporation. With the turn of the century and the emergence of the brothers Oppenheimer, the extant source materials reveal the need to construct literary bricks without straw. Still, Kanfer extracts the last full measure of worth from what is available. THE LAST EMPIRE does not expose De Beers in a definitive manner, but does far more than was previously the case. Kanfer reveals the extent to which De Beers and Anglo-American diverged from the norm when South Africa was deep in the grip of apartheid, as well as the degree to which they are creatures of their time and their environment.