Southern Africa was once regarded as a worthless jumble of British colonies, Boer republics, and African chiefdoms, a troublesome region of little interest to the outside world. But then prospectors chanced upon the world’s richest deposits of diamonds and gold, setting off a titanic struggle between the British and the Boers for control of the land. The result was the costliest, bloodiest, and most humiliating war that Britain had waged in nearly a century, and the devastation of the Boer republics.
The New Yorker calls this magisterial account of those years “[an] astute history.…Meredith expertly shows how the exigencies of the diamond (and then gold) rush laid the foundation for apartheid.”
©2007 Martin Meredith (P)2014 Audible Inc.
I read this book when it was first published in the US some years ago and was enthralled. Very familiar with the territory as I am, I have recently been severely disenchanted by the abundance of post-1994 revisionist pablum that now occupy the bookshelves of most bookstores and many libraries. One recent, well-acclaimed review of the new South Africa barely mentions pre-1994 history!
This audible book gave me a chance to re-explore the hows and the whys of the Republic's evolution. I enjoyed it thoroughly and was fascinated to, once again, re-discover how much the story parallels our own US history during a similar period (without King and Country, of course). At least those much maligned "white Africans", the Afrikaners, get a fair hearing here and one also begins to realize that their British Imperial overseers were as much responsible for sowing the seeds of apartheid as their Boer wards. Affirmative action, early twentieth century style.
The narration is, on the whole, very good indeed BUT is marred by the reader's absolutely atrocious and fractured pronunciation of Afrikaner place-names etc. Something that, with a little advanced vocal coaching could easily have been rectified, btw. Otherwise Highly recommended!
I would recommend this in a heart beat...
None like it other that specific history of various events in Southern Africa... this is a great overall story encompassing the entire history...
passion and excellence in delivery of the story...
the never dying spirit of the Voortrekker and the Boer...
Narrator Matthew Waterson spitsoutwords.................instacattophrases................interspersedwith............longpauses.
The topic is an interesting one. The writer's treatment of the subject seems to have a Liberal/Progressive slant (but because of the wretched narration I have not been able to endure enough of this book to really tell).
Years ago I devoured Meredith's The Fate of Africa and was duly impressed with his ability to capture monumental volumes of information in one gripping narrative. Page turner. So I knew going into Diamonds, Gold, and War that I was in for a treat. The story did not disappoint. In this volume Meredith doesn't take a demographics and statistics approach to historiography, but rather a character-driven approach. He brings to life the persons of Kruger, Smuts, Milner, Jameson, and above all, Cecil Rhodes... among many others. It is their ambitions, fears, manipulations, and quirks that Meredith weaves into a storied tapestry until, almost surprisingly, the listener finds that the finished masterpiece in view is the modern nation of South Africa in all its tragedy and glory. Superbly crafted, and truly enjoyable.
The narration, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired. I never imagined myself a narration snob. In all the other books I've listened to, I've not had a complaint about the narration. But this one caught me off guard. First was the pace, agonizingly slow. For the first time ever I used Audible's speed-up capabilities and was grateful for the return to normal listening. But the more major frustration - one which technology couldn't turn off - was the narrator's utter lack of familiarity with South African terminology. I grew up in South Africa for several years, long enough to learn to shudder when foreigners mispronounced common words like kopje, veld, and even boer. I shuddered over and over and over listening to Waterson's narration. Proper nouns such as Potchefstroom, Magaliesberg, Witwatersrand, Gaborone, and Bambatha left him completely lost. I understand that these are foreign words to an American Brit like Waterson, but surely Audible could have chosen a narrator familiar with the region of the world on topic. Or Waterson could have done his homework. Youtube is amazingly easy to use - listen to South Africans saying South African words. If Meredith spent years doing his homework, surely Waterson could have spent a few minutes doing his homework.
To be fair, Waterson's pronunciation got a little bit better as the book went along. I was expecting the worst when he got to the closing chapters about Botha, but he did pretty well.
But then to top that off, there were even a few English words that made him stumble. He pronounced "hegemony" at least two different ways, I think it might have even been three.
So in a nutshell, still well worth the listen as Meredith presents a gripping narrative history, but don't even think about imitating Waterson's pronunciation if you ever choose to converse about southern Africa and want to sound like you know what you're talking about.
An excellent listen, however the narrator could have researched how to properly pronounce "boer" first, seeing that it's used every few minutes.
I listened during and after my first trip to South Africa so I had a good sense of the geography. Without a map in your mind it can get confusing to follow. This is mostly the Cecil Rhodes story, but touches on many other "great" white men that shaped the politics that ultimately led to Apartheid. This is a white South African history with references to black leaders and tribes sporadically through the book. Probably the best way to get a feel for how these men perceived black natives - as a secondary thought and obstacle to white African domination. Having seen the settlements first hand, it is clear their impact lives on.
Raw history without agenda and its ugly, behind the scenes dramas, are the same story in all cultures time after time, age after age: ego, domination, war and exceptional people, some willing to use almost any tool and most by the ends of exceptional lives very dangerous when their time wanes.
This is historical narrative and characters are a small part of it, because the book is about events that come very quick upon another... and many are of great historical note still today. Rhodes has a tone to his remarks certainly and Waterson does a good job conveying that... but the grab by Europeans and behind scenes really the entire British Imperial class', their overt condescension to the entire world... is fascinating in its raw forms. But so are the individuals who have the courage to act even if they are often here in the service of domination and little else, certainly not, morality. The events here are stupendous in scope h on the Imperial level and for the Black tribes of Southern Africa, so, the history itself has a tone here not familiar to us today except to one who is aware that virtually the same thing that occupied Rhodes' vision, what he gave... to the world... is with us today in the acts of the "Deep State."
The book's arc of events is overwhelming, almost unbelievable to our tame world. His relatively... secrete society, (one of several groups still vying for world domination) that Rhodes created as his legacy, I suspect today is still central to world evens so for understanding that alone, who was behind it and why, the man himself and his life... tells us a great deal. This is not the British Empire's finest hour nor is it is low water mark! The tensions in part led to WW1 and 2. Bigotry can be a national trait, as we see in America and its allies' imperial moment today; raw emotions... not more complicated than any bully's treat or the fear he inspires... can be used for propaganda and the truth has nothing to do with it.
One fears the worse when reading great books such as this that time has allowed the real political truths to seep out. It seems humanity is forever divided into two groups: elites and the masses. And the masses are forever partially asleep and easily manipulated, even volunteering their lives... for the most common of reasons: a lie.
Report Inappropriate Content