Born in 1853, Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire was a British mining magnate and politician in southern Africa who served as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896. He and his British South Africa Company founded the southern African territory of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe and Zambia), which the company named after him in 1895. He also devoted much effort to realising his vision of a Cape to Cairo Railway through British territory. Rhodes set up the Rhodes Scholarship, which is funded by his estate.
The son of a vicar, Rhodes was born at Netteswell House, Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire. A sickly child, he was sent to South Africa by his family when he was 17 years old in the hope that the climate might improve his health. He entered the diamond trade at Kimberley in 1871, when he was 18, and with funding from Rothschild & Co, began to systematically buy out and consolidate diamond mines. Over the next two decades he gained a near-complete monopoly of the world diamond market. His diamond company De Beers, formed in 1888, retains its prominence into the 21st century.
Rhodes entered the Cape Parliament at the age of 27 in 1881, and in 1890, he became prime minister. During his time as prime minister, Rhodes used his political power to expropriate land from black Africans through the Glen Grey Act, while also tripling the wealth requirement for voting under the Franchise and Ballot Act, effectively barring black people from taking part in elections.
After overseeing the formation of Rhodesia during the early 1890s, he was forced to resign in 1896 after the disastrous Jameson Raid, an unauthorised attack on Paul Kruger‘s South African Republic (or Transvaal). Rhodes’s career never recovered; his heart was weak, and after years of ill health he died in 1902. He was buried in what is now Zimbabwe; his grave has been a controversial site.
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