Cecil Rhodes

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Cecil Rhodes

Cecil John Rhodes was the founder of the British South Africa Company which was responsible for the colonisation of Zimbabwe in the 1890s. Rhodes was a British South African born on 5 July 1853 in England and died on 26 March 1902 in the Cape Colony of South Africa.[1] He was, in short, a South African statesman, proponent of British imperialism, and businessman after whom Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) was named.[1]

See also History of Zimbabwe Timeline.
See also National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe.

Life History

He was the fifth son of Francis William Rhodes and his second wife, Louisa Peacock.[1] A priest of the Church of England, his father served as curate of Brentwood Essex for fifteen years, until 1849, when he became the vicar of Bishops Stortford, where he remained until 1876. Rhodes had nine brothers and two sisters and attended the grammar school at Bishops Stortford.[1]

He fell ill shortly after leaving school and, as his lungs were affected, it was decided that he should visit his brother who had recently immigrated to Natal. He arrived in Durban on 1 September 1870.[2] He brought three thousands pounds his aunt had lent him and used it to invest in diamond diggings in Kimberley.[3]

Education and Early Business Career

After a brief stay with the Surveyor-General of Natal, Dr. P. C. Sutherland, in Pietermaritzburg, Rhodes joined his brother Herbert on his cotton farm in the Umkomaas valley in Natal.[2] In October 1871 Rhodes left the colony for the diamond fields of Kimberley. He supervised the working of his brother's claim and speculated on his behalf. Among his associates in the early days were John X Merriman and C D Rudd, who later became his partner in the De Beers Mining Company.[1]

In 1873 Rhodes left his diamond fields in the care of his partner, Rudd, and sailed for England to complete his studies. He was admitted to Oriel College, but only stayed for one term in 1873 and only returned for his second term in 1876.[2] Whilst at Oxford, Rhodes continued to prosper in Kimberley. Before his departure for Oxford he and Rudd had moved from the Kimberley mine to invest in the more costly claims of what was known as old De Beers.[1]

Rhodes' British South Africa Company

Rhodes also used his wealth to pursue his dream of expanding Britain's empire in Africa. His British South Africa Company, which formed a police force (the BSAC Police) and a military engineer unit, (the Pioneer column), was used to colonise Mashonaland, in present day Zimbabwe.[4] They had hoped to start a ‘new Rand' from the ancient gold mines of the Shona, but the gold had been worked out of the ground long before. The White settlers who accompanied the British South Africa Company to Mashonaland became farmers.[3]

After a successful colonisation of Rhodesia with the aid of the Pioneer Column, Rhodes became the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896.[1] Under his leadership, both Mashonaland and Matabeleland were effectively occupied and there was a considerable inflow of the white population who came to practice agriculture. In 1902, he established the Rhodes scholarship at Oxford University.[3]


Rhodes died on 26 March 1902. It was reported that in 1874, Rhodes caught a severe chill while rowing, and developed a serious inflammation of the lungs, and he was pronounced unable to live more than a few months even in South Africa. [5] However he did not heed the warning and in 1902 he passed on.

Prior to his death, Rhodes had requested that he be honoured by being buried in Matopos and rename the place to Worlds View. Rhodes was not aware that the place was regarded as sacred by the Ndebele. They referred to the mountain as ‘Malindidzimu’ which means ‘dwelling place of the generous spirits’. Rhodes was buried at Matobo National Park. Cecil Rhode's Burial Place [6]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 , Cecil John Rhodes, "South African History Online", published:24 Jun 2009, retrieved:4 Jul 2014"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 , Cecil Rhodes, retrieved:4 July 2014"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 , Cecil Rhodes, retrieved:4 Jul 2014"
  4. ,Cecil Rhodes, "Heritage History", published:2007,retrieved:4 July 2014"
  5. Death of Mr. Cecil Rhodes , The Guardian, Published: 27 March 1902, Retrieved: 10 April 2018
  6. Rhodes Grave, JSafaris, Published: , Retrieved: 10 April 2018

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