Diamonds, Gold, and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa

Diamonds, Gold, and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa

4.3 6
by Martin Meredith

From the author of The Fate of Africa: A vivid, gripping history of the turbulent years leading up to the founding of the modern state of South Africa in 1910


From the author of The Fate of Africa: A vivid, gripping history of the turbulent years leading up to the founding of the modern state of South Africa in 1910

Editorial Reviews

Douglas Foster
"The buildup to this catastrophe [the Boer War] provides the narrative spine for Martin Meredith's accessible, nimble and moving account of the creation of pre-apartheid South Africa. It is complicated history, marked not only by the rivalries of European colonists but also by the varied fates of the indigenous groups the settlers overran. Without sacrificing nuance to story-line, Meredith manages to thread the tale through novelistic scenes and direct quotation."
—The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
Diamonds, Gold and War is the work of an author who knows African history intimately…Over time he has sifted through a century's worth of controversy over the context and causes of war between the British and the Boers to arrive at the version presented in these engrossing pages…Mr. Meredith's main accomplishment here is in providing a many-faceted, sensibly incisive overview of events that could easily be oversimplified, and have been in earlier accounts. Dismissing reductive ideas like the thesis that capitalism and imperialism collided to create a war that would benefit both, he shows how one misstep led to another, how fear yielded miscalculations, how national pride and arrogance created such poisonous conditions.
—The New York Times
The Spectator
Enthralling....Martin Meredith has made good use not only of recent scholarly work by also of contemporary sources... [Meredith] tells the story lucidly so that the reader can draw his own moral.
The New Yorker
[an] astute history . . . Meredith expertly shows how the exigencies of the diamond (and then gold) rush laid the foundation for apartheid.

Winnipeg Free Press
engrossing . . . Anyone interested in African history and the British Empire will find this book fascinating.

New York Times
A many-faceted, sensibly incisive overview of events that could easily be oversimplified, and have been in earlier accounts.
Kirkus Reviews
The unruly formation of South Africa, set to a backdrop of war over the country's invaluable resources. Meredith (The Fate of Africa: From the Hopes of Freedom to the Heart of Despair, 2005, etc.) plunders his expansive knowledge of the continent's history once again for this examination of the genesis of current-day South Africa. A ten-page introduction sketches Britain's contemptuous disinterest in the colony before the late 1800s; the main narrative opens in 1871, the year a fertile deposit of diamonds was discovered outside Cape Town. This triggered a hunt for further riches, and the region proved to be positively swimming in diamonds and gold. The author proceeds to take his readers on an epic journey into South African history stretching from 1871 to 1910 and revolving around the brutal, costly war that broke out between the British and the Boers, each side hungry for the riches springing from South African soil. Cecil Rhodes led the Brits, Paul Kruger the Boers; Meredith's vivid depictions of these men and their activities lie at the story's bloody heart. Rhodes is portrayed as a megalomaniac hell-bent on ruling over sizable portions of the globe. (His will contained instructions to extend British dominion throughout the world via a secret society he wished his successors to set up.) The author vibrantly captures the Brits' disastrous misjudgment of Kruger as "an uneducated, ill-mannered peasant." On the contrary, Meredith reveals, Kruger's oafish persona masked a keen intelligence far greater than he was given credit for; acknowledging this is key to understanding the strong resistance the Boers were able to stage in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. The author alsocovers a tremendous amount of ground beyond the battlefield before threading his various strands together to paint a fascinating picture of the Afrikaner nationalism that emerged from this turbulent period and eventually resulted in the formation of Apartheid. No stone is left unturned in this dynamic analysis of an intriguing period in African history.

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6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.90(d)

What People are saying about this

Wilbur Smith
It] will take a prominent place upon my bookshelf . . . I know I will re-read time and again over the years.

Meet the Author

Martin Meredith is a journalist, biographer, and historian who has written extensively on Africa and its recent history. His previous books include Mugabe and The Fate of Africa. He lives near Oxford, England.

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Diamonds, Gold, and War 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Buksie More than 1 year ago
This book is an excellent depiction of South Africa's history from the start of the diamond rush through the date when they became a Union in 1910. It sets out a part of history that most South Africans are not very familiar with and Meredith captures it in this great book, which is a fine balance between detail and an easy read. He manages to stay very objective in his writing and potray the facts as they were. As a South African I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I certainly learned history of my country that I was not familiar with and also obtained a better understanding for a lot of things that is still prevailent in the South African society of today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A fascinating, if occasionally slow, story about the formation of South Africa. Like most Americans, I was vaguely familiar with the Boer wars and conflicts with the Zulu tribe, but I had no idea how the country and its original racist policies were founded. I thought the author did an excellent job of introducing some of the main ¿characters¿ from each of the interested parties ¿ the British, the Afrikaners, the native tribes and even some with no obvious link to Africa. However, the author did not fully develop most of these individuals. Instead, the focus was clearly on one British diamond/gold magnet 'admittedly with good reason'. It often seemed that the author assumed that the reader would know more about many of the other players 'which means much is probably lost on an unfamiliar American audience'. Most of the book is interesting but there are definitely a few sluggish spots. And while the formation of South Africa is rife with armed conflict, the author only gives the reader the barest essentials of such battles. Finally, I would have appreciated a ¿whatever happened to¿ section at the end of the book. For some of the more well known players, for example Churchill or Ghandi, such a section probably wouldn¿t add much, but for most others, the abrupt end of the book left me more than curious. Overall, a recommended read though.