Rhodes, Cecil (John)

Rhodes, Cecil (John)

biographical name

(born July 5, 1853, Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, Eng.—died March 26, 1902, Muizenberg, Cape Colony) Financier, statesman, and empire builder of British South Africa. Rhodes grew up in the English countryside and in 1871 was sent to assist his brother in business in South Africa, where he became interested in diamond mining. He founded De Beers Consolidated Mines (1888), and by 1891 his company was mining 90% of the world's diamonds. Seeking expansion to the north and dreaming of building a Cape-to-Cairo railway, he persuaded Britain to establish a protectorate over Bechuanaland (1884), clashing with Boer president Paul Kruger. He obtained digging concessions from Lobengula (1889), but in 1893 Rhodes overran him militarily. At his instigation Britain chartered the British South Africa Co. (1889) and put Rhodes in charge. He extended the company's control to two northern provinces, which were eventually named after him as Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). Interested in the mineral-rich Transvaal, he plotted to overthrow Kruger (1895); the attempt was botched by Leander Starr Jameson, and Rhodes was forced to resign as prime minister of Cape Colony and head of the British South Africa Co. His last years were marked by disappointment and scandal brought about by the scheming of Princess Radziwill. His will bequeathed most of his fortune to establishing the Rhodes scholarship.

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