Diamonds, Gold and War: The Making of South Africa
The prize was great not just land, but the riches it held. Southern Africa was once regarded as a worthless jumble of British colonies, Boer ... Show synopsis The prize was great not just land, but the riches it held. Southern Africa was once regarded as a worthless jumble of British colonies, Boer republics and African chiefdoms, a troublesome region of little interest to the outside world. But in 1871, everything changed. Prospectors exploring a remote stretch of sun-scorched scrubland chanced upon the world's richest deposits of diamonds. Fifteen years later, an itinerant digger stumbled across the rocky outcrop of a gold-bearing reef on a highveld ridge known as the Witwatersrand. Beneath lay the richest deposits of gold ever discovered. Suddenly, the region was a glittering prize. What followed was a titanic struggle fought by the British to gain supremacy throughout southern Africa and by the Boers to preserve the independence of their republics. It culminated in the costliest, bloodiest and most humiliating war that Britain had waged in nearly a century. Britain provoked the war expecting it to be over within a few months, but it turned into a gruelling campaign lasting two and a half years; required half a million imperial troops to finish it; and left the Boer republics devastated.In this superbly vivid and gripping history of the turbulent years leading up to the founding of the modern state of South Africa in 1910, Martin Meredith portrays the great wealth and raw power, the deceit and corruption that lay behind Britain's empire-building in southern Africa. Here too are some of the most iconic tales of British imperial history, including the Zulus at Rorke's Drift, the Jameson Raid and the siege and relief of Mafeking. It is a portrait of history red in tooth and claw, of a period when fortunes were made and lost; and when great men had their reputations forged, or dashed, and sometimes both. Among them were two men who came to personify the struggle between the British and the Boers: Cecil Rhodes, the son of an English country parson who used his huge fortune from diamonds and gold to promote the expansion of the British empire as well as his own business interests; and Paul Kruger, the Boer leader and landowner who defied Britain's prime ministers and generals for nearly a quarter of a century. the author concludes his magisterial account of the making of South Africa on a note of foreboding.Though the new state was launched on a tide of goodwill, the legacy of hatred and bitterness engendered by the Anglo-Boer war and its cruel aftermath gave rise to a virulent Afrikaner nationalism that eventually took hold of South Africa, with repercussions lasting nearly a century.