The founder: Cecil Rhodes and the pursuit of power

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Oxford University Press, 1988 - Biography & Autobiography - 800 pages
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Cecil Rhodes was an imposing figure, tall, robust-looking, with a leonine head, a man so charismatic that one contemporary claimed that "belief in Rhodes was a substitute for religion." But he was certainly a man of contradictions. He was a dreamy idealist whose favorite book was The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and a ruthless businessman whose guiding principle was "every man has his price." He supported invidious racial laws in South Africa, and invented and sponsored the world-renowned Rhodes Scholarships. Though his own education and intellectual talents were unprepossessing, he dominated the British Empire and became one of the leading figures in the English-speaking world, the confidant of Queen Victoria and Kaiser Wilhelm, and a man of vast wealth and world-wide influence. Based on seventeen years of research, this monumental volume offers the definitive biography of one of the most controversial figures of the nineteenth century. Rhodes was truly larger than life, and this book captures that life in fascinating detail. It offers an astute portrait of Rhodes' childhood and adolescence, informed by insights from modern psychology; it vividly depicts life on a nineteenth-century African cotton farm (Rhodes' first venture) and in mining camps around Kimberley and the Witwatersrand; it traces the surreptitious stock buyouts and mergers that allowed Rhodes to gain control over 90% of the world's diamond production by age thirty-five; it describes his campaigns against African populations that allowed him to establish Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia); and it discusses the poorly planned, disastrous raid on the Transvaal that destroyed Rhodes' reputation. A conqueror and colonial monarch, Cecil Rhodes presided arrogantly over the fate of southern Africa. But he also built lasting economic institutions, furthered transportation and communication links, improved agriculture, and fervently believed that he used his wealth and power to advance the best interests of the British Empire and Africa. This biography illuminates a complex and fascinating life, a life both evil and good.

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The founder: Cecil Rhodes and the pursuit of power

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Imperialist, financier, politician, and mining magnate, Rhodes was a larger-than-life figure in southern Africa whose influence is still felt through his scholarships and the DeBeers diamond monopoly ... Read full review


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About the author (1988)

About the Author:
Robert I. Rotberg is Academic Vice-President for Arts, Sciences, and Technology at Tufts University. A noted authority on Africa, he taught for many years at M.I.T. and Harvard. He has written numerous books about Africa, including Suffer the Future: Policy Choices in Southern Africa (1980), Black Heart: Gore-Browne and the Politics of Multiracial Zambia (1978), The Rise of Nationalism in Central Africa (1965), Joseph Thomson and the Exploration of Africa (Oxford, 1971), and Protest and Power in Black Africa (Oxford, 1970). He is himself a former Rhodes Scholar.

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