Rhodes, Cecil John

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
Save to active project

Rhodes, Cecil John

Cecil John Rhodes (sĕs´Ĭl, rōdz), 1853–1902, British imperialist and business magnate.

Business Career

The son of a Hertfordshire clergyman, he first went to South Africa in 1870, joining his oldest brother, Herbert, on a cotton plantation in Natal. In 1871 the brothers staked a claim in the newly opened Kimberley diamond fields, where Cecil was to make most of his fortune. He returned to England in 1873 and entered Oxford, but his studies were repeatedly interrupted by visits to South Africa and he did not receive his degree until 1881. His power in the diamond-mining industry developed until, in 1880, he formed the De Beers Mining Company, which was second only to that organized by Barney Barnato.

In 1888 he tricked Lobengula, the Ndebele (Matabele) ruler, into an agreement by which Rhodes secured mining concessions in Matabeleland and Mashonaland. He exploited these through the British South Africa Company (organized 1889), which soon established complete control of the territory. In 1888, Rhodes had also secured a monopoly of the Kimberley diamond production by the creation (with Barnato) of the De Beers Consolidated Mines, which reputedly had the largest capital in the world.

Rhodes left nearly all his fortune of £6 million to public service. One of his chief benefactions was the Rhodes Scholarships to Oxford, administered by the Rhodes Trust. More than 90 scholarships are now awarded each year to students from the (now former) British colonies, the United States, and Germany.

Political Career

A trip in 1875 through the rich territories of Transvaal and Bechuanaland apparently helped to inspire Rhodes with the dream of British rule over all southern Africa; later he spoke of British dominion "from the Cape to Cairo." In 1881, Rhodes entered the Parliament of Cape Colony, in which he held a seat for the remainder of his life. In Parliament he stressed the policy of containing the northward expansion of the Transvaal Republic, and in 1885, largely at his persuasion, Great Britain established a protectorate over Bechuanaland.

Rhodes became the prime minister, and virtual dictator, of Cape Colony in 1890. He was responsible for educational reforms and for restricting the franchise to literate persons (thereby reducing the African vote). His personal and business sympathies with the Uitlanders [Afrik.,=foreigners] in the Transvaal, who were mostly British and the victims of discrimination, brought him to conspire for the overthrow of the government of Paul Kruger. The result was the Jameson Raid (1895; see Jameson, Sir Leander Starr). Although Rhodes did not approve the timing of the raid, he was so clearly implicated that he was forced to resign as prime minister in 1896.

In 1897 a committee of the British House of Commons pronounced him guilty of grave breaches of duty as prime minister and as administrator of the British South Africa Company. Thereafter he devoted himself primarily to the development of the country that was called Rhodesia (since 1980, Zimbabwe) in his honor. In the South African War he commanded troops at Kimberley and was besieged there for a time. He died in South Africa and is buried in Zimbabwe.

Bibliography

See biographies by J. G. Lockhart and C. M. Woodhouse (1963), J. Marlowe (1974), and R. Rotberg (1988).

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Rhodes, Cecil John
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?