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Rhodes, Cecil 1853–1902

Cecil Rhodes

In March 1888 English businessman Cecil Rhodes formed the DeBeers Consolidated Mining Company, which controls the largest diamond mine in the world. Rhodes also held prominent political offices in southern Africa and helped Britain control that area north to Lake Tanganyika by 1895, an idea set out in Rhodes's imperialist manifesto "Confession of Faith." Originally in South Africa to work on his brother's cotton farm, Rhodes took over his brother's diamond mine in Kimberley in 1871. Rhodes prospered and formed the DeBeers Mining Company in 1880 after buying out everyone else at the De-Beers mine. Rhodes bought out many other diamond mines and merged with his largest competitor, the Central Mining Company, to form the DeBeers Consolidated Mining Company. Rhodes used his political power to form the British South Africa Company in 1889, and Britain gave this company complete control over the territory of Rhodesia. A failed revolt in Johannesburg, orchestrated by Rhodes for profit, led to rebellion in Rhodesia in 1896 and eventually the Boer War in 1899. Rhodes played a part in ending both of these conflicts, but died of a weak heart in 1902 before he could implement any postwar reconstruction plans.

SEE ALSO DeBeers; Empire, British; Gold and Silver; Imperialism; Laborers, Coerced; Laborers, Contract; South Africa; Zimbabwe.


Shillington, Kevin. An African Adventure: A Brief Life of Cecil Rhodes. Bishop's Stortford, U.K.: Rhodes Memorial Museum and Commonwealth Centre, 1993.

Jeffrey Wood

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