CECIL RHODES by John Flint


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An unorthodox and highly critical biography of Cecil Rhodes, the man who for good or ill has to date been portrayed on an outsized, heroic scale to be compared with Caesar or Napoleon. Flint argues that he was, on the contrary and despite his achievements, a ""rather mediocre person"" who remained all his life immature and intellectually limited. Moreover, Flint contends that Rhodes, for many years a symbol of British imperialism at its zenith, was in fact far more of a conquistador and freebooter who manipulated the Colonial Office for his own aggrandizement. Beginning with the fortune he made in the Kimberley diamond mines, Rhodes' thrust for power achieved megalomaniacal proportions; using his premiership of the Cape colony as a launching pad he created the Charter Company which gave him virtually unchecked power in Rhodesia -- the state that bears his name. In many ways Rhodes emerges as a proto-fascist and Flint holds him largely accountable for the creation of the ""native policy"" which eventually became apartheid. The disastrous Jameson Raid usually seen as a ""tragic accident"" in his political career was, Flint contends, entirely consistent with Rhodes' predilections for removing obstacles by violent means and for schemes which were staggering in their ""effrontery and contempt for international considerations."" One might wish that the author had taken more pains with Rhodes' private life -- he hints at but doesn't pursue homosexuality. Still, the book is valuable not only as biography but as a detailed picture of the European carving up of Africa.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1974
Publisher: Little, Brown