British Empire
The rise of the British empire - Africa
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Extract from a complaint in 1899 by white South African settlers against British businessman Cecil Rhodes
(Catalogue ref: DO 119/552)
  • This document was written on 14 April 1899 as part of a complaint by Afrikaaners against Cecil Rhodes.
  • Cecil Rhodes was a powerful and ambitious adventurer who made his fortune in diamonds in South Africa. He had a reputation for having big ideas and making big plans work. He also had a reputation for being ruthless.
  • He founded and ran the British South Africa Company. This company was like a small government. He used its resources to take control of lands in the northern parts of South Africa and mine them. These lands later became Rhodesia. Local African rulers claimed that Rhodes had tricked them out of their lands.
  • As you can see from this source, Rhodes was always keen to gain more lands. He provoked the war with the powerful Matabele peoples and enlisted support from the Afrikaaners of Rhodesia to help him.
  • The Matabele were a powerful African nation who lived (and still live) in the northern parts of what is South Africa today. The area is still known as Matabeleland. Rhodes saw the Matabele as a threat to his plans to develop mining and farming in the region next to the Matabele people. His ambitions led to the war mentioned in this source.
  • The Afrikaaners (also called Boers) were white Africans who were descended from European settlers in the early 1700s. They had fought many wars against African peoples over land since that time.
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