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Hi, everyone, welcome dance Snow's history at Cecil Rhodes is never out of the news at the moment. He was a British businessman, prospector and politician who took up residence in South Africa and was then a keen imperialist, pushing the boundaries of British South Africa ever further north, giving his name to what is now Zambia and Zimbabwe was then northern and Southern Rhodesia. His gift of money to Oriel College, Oxford, among other places, has become highly controversial, and many people are demanding that his statue was torn down from Auriel as it has been removed elsewhere.
I wanted to talk to a biographer of Cecil Rhodes. Duncan Clarke just written a book on his conquest of Zambezia with Charles. Talk about the man behind the fearsome historical reputation. If you want to watch programs as well as listen to all the back episodes of this podcast, you can get a history hit TV shows like Netflix for History. It is a one stop shop for everyone who loves history. Go and check it out. All you got to do is use the code pod one, pod one, and you get one month for free and then you get one month for just one pound Eurodollars.
Pretty sweet. So please go and check that out. In the meantime, here's Duncan Clark.
Thank you very much for joining me. Thank you. And it's a great pleasure it couldn't be a better time to be talking about Cecil Rhodes. Have we built this man into mythical proportions? It sounds like this one individual was hugely important in the history of southern Africa.
Well, I believe so. If you look at the true record and the historiography of Rhodes in particular in my book, I focus on these last 15 years in the foundation of Rhodesia that led to a fundamental transition and shift from, if you like, a longstanding millennial feudalism to modernity that took 90 years and continues. He was a man of the late Victorian era. He died in 1902. His foundation of Rhodesia, which was actually only Mashonaland at the time, was in 1890, was the Pioneer column going up and in Matabeleland through a war that was inspired by the inaudible in 1893 to form Rhodesia subsequently.
Right. Well, let's start. He was a rural British upbringing, but he went soccers, a teenager, I think, and got involved in times. Did he rise to the top for his own merits in that tough world of diamond mining?
The reality is that he was somewhat sickly. His family's medical advice or advisers at the time of bishops Stortford had, when he was 16, recommended he goes out to join his brother Herbert. Important to tell a colony then of the British Empire, and he had his seventeenth book, 17th birthday on the boat and a 70 day voyage. And he arrived. No one there to meet him. He was alone. He went off to the Camos Valley to grow cotton with his brother, who was on and off, up and down to the goldfields and the diamond fields looking for opportunities.
So Rhodes himself actually managed a workforce of Zulus of about 30 at that time through year to year and a half before he took off on a trek by himself with one person coming along as a companion and a native assistant through about two to three months to get to Kimberley, where the diamond fields were in fact found. And they started off as a simple digger. He, through the years, managed to accumulate clans and amalgamate the holdings of various people.
And it's out of that time he made his large fortune. The second one came through when the discovery of gold took place in the forties front. And between those two, if you like, Polarities was the foundation of his money. And from there he basically had done this tremendous amount of work and he was no slouch. He put in long hours. He dealt with some of the toughest people in the world and Kimberley, and he had a very kind of early, abrupt introduction to rural farming world in the Camos Valley in the town, which was an area of no distinction of any sort for growing cotton crops.
And so, you know, as a young man in his early 20s, he did succeed and he made money. And very early on, he took himself off to Oxford in over a period of about seven years and journeys from down from the Kimberley mines to the Cape and then onwards over on a boat to Southampton through about fourteen journeys, up and down over seven or eight years before he, in effect, got his degree at Oxford. So, you know, he was a self-made effectively.
He became a millionaire of the times and a significant fortune. But his was nowhere near the great fortunes that ultimately were made by others, such as Bonnie Bonauto and Alfred Bitts and others of some time. And he left a great deal of his money in his last will. And testament to that, you know very well Rhodes Scholars, but also invested enormous amount in the foundation of infrastructure and Rhodesia and the pioneers and settlement. And he had made a lot of gifts and bequests to the government of the day, to various ethnicities in the belly with whom he had the war and with whose Indianness the chiefs, if you wish, he had negotiated peace with them in 1896 after the rebellion.
So, you know, he'd put a lot on the table. He did not live in the style to which he could have been accustomed. He led a rather simplistic life. He was often on horseback, on track, in small boats, in carts and wagons. He came into the country first time and Mashonaland to try to get there through the WSW, basically through McClarty. And it was swamped out and torrential rains had blocked his entry. He couldn't go there in 1890.
So his next occasion was the following. And through Byron in a Portuguese holding on Portuguese East Africa up the river and over the flatlands and the. Felt in the city, fly and fever infested areas into what was then this very small village of I'm totally not known as Matari. So, you know, he did a number of seven other visits during that time and he tore through the country. He had a lot to do there. And same time, you know, there was the ill fated Jamison raid in 1895 that led to his downfall as the kept.
And so basically from that time, he devoted his entire commitment to Rhodesia from 1896 to 1902 when he died. Yes.
But this one was so you go free. You go from being a self-made man in the diamond mines. He consolidates the other mines, does the empire building. But when does he go? How, how why does he become a an actual empire builder, an imperialist expanding the formal British Empire in southern Africa?
Well, I think you could see that in terms of the he had this dream of Cape Dakari for the railway. It was not one that was accomplished. He funded the railways up from Kimberley through to Mafeking on up into Bechuanaland and onto Bulawayo and subsequently various routes coming in from the east, from Bira through to Matari. And later after his death, his foundations and trusts committed with other colleagues like Alfred White and George Pawling, established the railway network in the country.
But his impression of of the time, I think, was that he believed in the empire. He wanted to establish Rhodesia as a self-governing colony, which it became in 1923 after the company state, the British South Africa company, of which he had founded with many, many others. Its term had expired under a royal charter at that time. And he was a man of, you know, many sides. He was no intellectual, as the critics would say, but he had a library in in his house through a school in Cape Town that was probably the best of any in Africa and probably one of the greatest ones in the world regarding Afrikaner and literature of the day.
And it had two and a half thousand books on it. And I've been through that, among other things, and seen it very carefully as a sort of form of inspiration to him.
He had read a lot and he took books on his travels. He had agents scoured Europe and in Britain at the time for for literature on Africa. He had one of the greatest collections of Afrikaner of the day by any means. So his imperialist interests were, in a sense, tied up with a wider British Empire and colonial project. During those days, of course, you would know that the British established many colonies and many other parts of Africa and elsewhere in the East, and Rhodesia was not the same because it was a company Charta estate and subsequently not managed out of London.
It was always locally driven and with its own residents coming out of company, on the one hand, the settlers on the other, and subsequently, as time went by, changes in constitutional government, etc..
Right. Well, that's why I want to drill down on that a little bit more. So should we do we need to think about roads and the establishment of Rhodesia to the north of Britain's colonial colonies in South Africa as almost like the East India Company setting up in Bengal 150 years earlier? Is this a kind of private enterprise empire?
Not not strictly. It was under a royal charter, as you correctly note, and it was given by Queen Victoria in the day and it had a 25 year tenure. It basically required roads to establish civil government. And, of course, the natural institutions that were founded were completely different to anything there before in the terrain was in Zambezia, which was really set of Underbelly dynasties and a whole number of smaller Shonna Patrikis of limited scale and significance who had been predated upon by the entity who enslaved them for 53 years, as well as slavery in the East, coming out of the old Portuguese Prasa systems that had penetrated into Manicaland, into Mashonaland, etc.
. So I think we've got a very different model in this particular instance compared, say, to the classical British colonial model elsewhere.
So Rhodes was going in getting mineral concessions from African indigenous ruling elites, but was he explicitly did he want to eventually supplant them and ruled directly or and also flood settlers the air and create facts on the ground? Or how did he think his relationship with these Shonai, these other groups would progress?
Well, the initial condition called the red concession, negotiated an eighteen eighty eight nine. And that was signed by the King of the day, Guler, who succeeded his father, Zilly Karzai, was a concession for the pioneers to enter as a column into Mashonaland, which was a sort of fiefdom in the sense partially not entirely of the underbelly, but the underbelly in the sense wasn't a Westphalian state. It didn't have clear boundaries, etc. And the concession was to, of course, to both exploit or to prospect for minerals and to establish settlement, etc.
So that the effect of that was that that's where the concentration of the interests of Rose at the time was. And it was like that and untrammelled for three years until the conflict was materialized between the settlers and Mashonaland and the king and his enemies or his warriors of about 20000 on the western side of what is now Zimbabwe. So the minerals, the Elderado, the myth of fear, these were sort of well thought and widely presented concepts in the sort of romantic literature of the times.
But it didn't prove to be a second round along its waterfront in South Africa was the kind of gold nuggets falling from the trees, as if gooseberries, as it were. And this meant that, you know, the initial expectations and hopes were dashed and the country had to survive. It had to be cut off at the time of the initial establishment in September 1890 for three or four months by an absolutely torrential downpour that cut the wagon trails and people were succumbing to black fever, malaria and a number of other maladies.
The settlers and the turning towards agriculture and land as an agrarian economy was built up initially and subsequently investment came in from mining. But it was not the old style mining of the ancients that had been there sort of 1500 years before that were rather shallow mines and surface and alluvial mining. But it was a full on mining enterprise. It wasn't restricted to gold. It went into the range of minerals, chrome and other.
Ultimately, what did Rhodes think of these African societies that he was encountering?
Initially, I would have thought to my mind and from what I read in all his speeches and the literature, he was. Clearly, from his point of view, the British were the best. Medicine, if you like, for Africa's feudalism syllogism, and he was definitely opposed to the behavioral characteristics and protection of the underbelly that would slave Shonna and the Winnik across the river and in what other Zambesi? But his intention was to have one. Type of society with a basically meritocratic system.
There were ideas for qualifications to vote and they were clearly not in the likelihood to be met by very many of the elements in the net societies that were around the time. But they did keep that for quite some years. And that became a point of contention in the late 60s, ultimately, when there were matters arising about federation and independence for religious or not between London and Salisbury. But his mind was that, you know, basically the local or top 10 societies would have to be brought on progressively over time.
And this has an effect on the economics of it.
Is what happened precipitated in the Boer War? Is that his is that his fault? And was that a disaster that all also of tarnishes his legacy? The simple answer is no.
That is a claim made in several biographies. And don't forget that he had to resign as premier of the Cape Colony in 1896, immediately in the beginning of 1896, after the failure of the Jamieson read the Boer War. I think if you look at it in all the stuff I've written and everything clear to me, it was a confrontation between effectively London and Pretoria and between the Afrikaners, the Boer, as they were called, and then and Kruger on the one hand, and Milnor in the South as premier of the Cape and others in that domain.
So to many today on the streets with Rhodes must fall. And Rhodes represents imperialism, racism, exclusion of native peoples from from their own sovereign running themselves, some sovereignty in the parts of Africa in which he operated. What should do you think his how should we remember? What should his legacy be today?
I did address that in the book. I do a lot, a lot with a lot of the comments and critiques made and the historical ones and biographies going back even before his time ended and subsequently to now in the modern era. And his intention was to have basically self-governing colony or country. As it turned out, there were provisions made wonderful under the arrangements for the protection of native interests, for the continuity of customary law in certain domains and not in others.
Obviously, those would fall under the juridical realities of the central state that was set up.
Well, thank you very much.
The book is called Quadratus Discuss the Conquest of Zambezia.
And I put that subtitle in then because the book is about all the different forces that came into play from the origin of the descent, the Coya in the sense people of the very tens of thousands of years ago who were pushed out of the heartfelt and the Zambezia area by incumbents from the north. And ultimately, there were several of these lords of the savannah that came and went and different kind of mini empires over time. And if you look at the long arc of history, my point is that the roads and Rhodesian era was another one, but it it fell as well.
It went to its demise and it was, in effect, brought to an end by civil war, ended in 1980. And now the new regime has taken over or did take over them. And you have a second republic in place today. So it looks at a long span of history and trust is situated in that context as well.
Well, thank you very much indeed for coming on the podcast. Period in the history of our country. I honestly don't know. Just a quick request. It's so annoying and I hate it when the podcast do this, but now I'm doing it. I hate myself. Please, please go into iTunes, where you get your podcasts and give us a five star rating and review. It really helps basically boost up the chart, which is good, and then more people listen, which is nice.
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