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Surveying Rhodesia from its origin as a British wedge against the ""ramshackle republics"" of the South African Boers to the unilateral declaration of independence from the Empire in 1965, this is an impressive, highly particularized but thoughtful volume by an Oxford authority on British conservatism. The book's singular merit is not its jaunty account of Cecil Rhodes' fight to incorporate the somewhat dreary Rhodesian settlement into his Cape-to-Cairo blueprint; fuller studies abound of the mining stakes, the financial clout of Rhodes' Chatered Company, and the epicene but tireless character of Rhodes himself. What Blake has sought to do, through numerous confidential interviews and brisk re-examination of documents, is capture the special quality of the Rhodesian colony itself. He succeeds in lending fascination to even the dimmest intervals of the semi-nation, its unusual degree of self-government dating from the 1920s, its short-lived federation with copper-rich Northern Rhodesia in the 1950s, and its ""overwhelmingly urban character"" despite the squire mentality which Ian Smith (the only native-born Prime Minister) has intensified. A good measure of Blake's success lies in his cogent tracing not only of administrative structures, but of the ""intensely personal"" nature of Rhodesian politics: the urbane, imperturbable, ever-so-British 1930s leader Godfrey Huggins, the 1950s Prime Minister Garfield Todd who moved toward ""rapprochement between African nationalism and white liberalism,"" Winston Field, who created the nationalist Rhodesian Front--and Harold Wilson, the British P.M. who couldn't understand or sway the 1965 rebels. One comes away from the book with confidence in Blake and a new grounding in Rhodesia's colonial past, if not its African future: an admirably useful, judicious resource.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1978
Publisher: Knopf