Under the Skin: The Death of White Rhodesia by David Caute - review by Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens

Chronicles of Revolution

Under the Skin: The Death of White Rhodesia


Allen Lane 416pp £14.95

During the last all-white election in Rhodesia, over which Ian Smith presided in 1977, I went to pay a call on Sir Roy Welensky. The old boy sat in his garden in the suburbs of Salisbury, where an enormous tortoise from the Seychelle Islands was inching about, and talked about the way in which the Rhodesian Front party had colonised the minds of his fellow Europeans. Welensky was a leathery old Tory, with a long record of tough right-wing politics in the old Central African Federation. But he had come to detest racialism and the ruinous war it had brought on the country. ‘It’s always seemed very simple to me’, he said. ‘If you don’t like black men, don’t come and live in Africa.’ I thought then, and I think now, that this was rather a sound point. It used to get one down, hearing red-faced men in bars shouting about how ‘we’ built up this country and weren’t about to give it away to a lot of shiftless ‘Afs’. At least as often as not, one would find that the speaker had left Leamington Spa about five years ago to escape ‘socialist Britain’.

The main fascination of David Caute’s excellent book lies, for me at least, in its depiction of a microcosm of England. In Rhodesia in the old days, it was often oddly moving to find how painstakingly the whites preserved their interpretation of Englishness. Even a Rhodesian Front rally could be

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

A Mirror - Westend

Follow Literary Review on Twitter