Diamonds, Gold and War: The Making of South Africa by Martin Meredith - review by Saul David

Saul David

Out of the Turmoil

Diamonds, Gold and War: The Making of South Africa


Simon & Schuster 570pp £25 order from our bookshop

So action-packed are the four decades that shaped modern South Africa – from the discovery of the main diamond field in Griqualand in 1871 to the formation of the Union in 1910 – that it is a mystery this book was not written earlier. Perhaps it is just as well, because Martin Meredith, the author of a widely praised history of post-colonial Africa, is the ideal guide through this complex, but never less than compelling tale of intrigue, conflict and betrayal.

The larger-than-life cast includes scheming colonial administrators (Sir Bartle Frere, Sir Alfred Milner), unscrupulous businessmen (Alfred Beit, Barney Barnato), incompetent British generals (Lord Chelmsford, Sir George Colley, Sir Redvers Buller), bloodthirsty African tyrants (King Cetshwayo of the Zulus, Chief Sekhukhune of the Pedi), and resourceful and canny Boer generals-turned-politicians (Louis

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