Cecil Rhodes was born the son of the vicar of Bishops Stortford in England, 1853. As a youngster he suffered from ill health, so rather than following in his several brothers footsteps to be either educated at the best public school or join the armed forces, he was forced to attend the local grammar school. At the age of thirteen, Rhodes was sent by his father to live with his brother Herbert, who was attempting to establish a cotton farm in Natal. Upon arriving, Cecil found that the farm wasn’t particularly successful, and so moved with his brother to the new found diamond mines of Kimberley, also in southern Africa. Although at first his new trade of being a diamond prospector seemed pretty bleak, he soon began making money, and by the age of twenty he had become very wealthy.
With his money, he was able to return to England to undertake study at the prestigious Oxford University, in 1873. He kept returning to Kimberley to see how his business interests were being maintained, so he didn’t emerge as a graduate from the university until 1881. By then he had formed the De Beers mining company, by merging several smaller ventures, and controlled much of the mining in the area. That year also saw Rhodes’ life as a politician begin when he entered the Cape Colony Parliament, which ruled over what is now South Africa.
In 1885, Rhodes persuaded Britain to annex Bechuanaland (now called Botswana), in an attempt to prevent the Boer Transvaal Republic from extending its territory northwards. He had visions of Britain controlling all of southern Africa, and the Transvaal Republic was seen as one of the main threats.
Three years later he had control over all diamond production in Kimberley, and set about persuading the leader of Matabeleland (now Zimbabwe) to grant him all the mining rights to that country. He was duly given them, although the leader, Lubengula, later complained that he had been deceived. In 1889, Rhodes became the head administrator of the British South Africa Company, which was charged with controlling what is now known as Zimbabwe and Zambia, and also with developing new territory north of these regions.
Cecil Rhodes’ political career was blossoming at the same time, and the following year he became Prime Minister of the Cape region. All the time he was looking for ways to fulfil his dream of British domination of the whole of southern Africa. Soon after the region of Matabeleland was renamed Rhodesia in his honour, Rhodes was approached by a group of British settlers, victims of discrimination, from Transvaal Republic, who planned to overthrow the Boer run government. Rhodes, seeing it as an opportunity to forward his vision, backed the plan. On December 29, 1895 a British South Africa Company force invaded the republic, but were soon driven back. The invasion became known as ‘Jameson’s Raid’, after its leader, Leander Starr Jameson, who was duly sent to prison for the part he played.
Although Rhodes avoided a similar fate, it was obvious that he’d given the attack his backing, so he was forced to resign as Prime Minister in 1896. Subsequently, he helped to develop the country named after him, both economically and politically. Cecil Rhodes died in 1902, after having an active role in the Boer War. He left the majority of his wealth to create the Rhodes Scholarships, which have benefited hundreds of students of Oxford University.
Financial World Coin programme:
- Henry Ford
- Nathan M. Rothschild
- Sir John D. Rockefeller
- Alfred Nobel
- Cecile Rhodes
- Edward Henry Harriman
- Andrew Carnegie
- Howard Hughes
And many others to follow...