A bad man in Africa: as Zimbabwe celebrated 30 years of independence on 18 April, it was hard to remember that modern Zimbabwe started as a fiefdom of one man, Cecil Rhodes, and a few colleagues, who tricked king Lobengula out of his domain. Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher, mathematician and historian, tells the story even better in freedom and organisation, published by Routledge.

Author:Russell, Bertrand

IT MUST NOT BE SUPPOSED THAT CECIL John Rhodes [the man Rhodesia was named after; Rhodesia became Zimbabwe at independence in 1980] was a mere money-grabber; on the contrary, he meditated much on the problems of human destiny. He decided, after some hesitation, that the existence and non-existence of God are equally probable.


Anticipating William James's Will to Believe, he felt that a hesitant indecision on such an issue would not do, and determined to adopt, in action, the hypothesis that there is a God. The next step was to determine God's purpose in creating the universe. As to this, Rhodes found less difficulty.

"God was obviously trying to produce a type of humanity most fitted to bring peace, liberty, and justice to the world and to make that type predominant. Only one race, so it seemed to him, approached God's ideal type, his own Anglo-Saxon race; God's purpose then was to make the Anglo-Saxon race predominant, and the best way to help on God's work and fulfil His purpose in the world was to contribute to the predominance of the Anglo-Saxon race and so bring nearer the reign of justice, liberty and peace" [quoted from Basil Williams's Life of Cecil Rhodes, p. 50).

Rhodes proceeded to help on God's purpose of bringing "peace, liberty and justice" through the Matabele wars, the Jameson Raid, the Boer War, the subjection, first of the northern negroes and then of the Boers, to British domination, and the creation of a vast system of political corruption both in England and in South Africa.

Throughout, quite sincerely, he regarded himself as the agent of God. The basis of Rhodes's success, throughout his career, was his control of the Kimberley diamonds. After 1888, the De Beers Consolidated Mines, in which he was the leading partner, owned all the South African diamond fields known at the time, amounting to 90% of the world's total supply. In Transvaal gold mining, he was also important but not a monopolist. His company, the Consolidated Gold Fields of South Africa, paid dividends which rose rapidly from 10% in 1892 to 50% in 1894-5, and brought him an annual income of three or four hundred thousand pounds. Nevertheless his interests in gold were never as important as in diamonds.

Meanwhile Rhodes determined, on imperialist rather than personal grounds, that the British Empire must be extended northwards into the region which was subsequently christened Rhodesia. The southern part of this country, consisting of...

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