Thursday 4 February 2016

Cecil Rhodes 1853-1902.


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Cecil Rhodes has been in the news again recently. His benefaction of Oxford's Oriel College has caused upset amongst the student PC brigade; they don't like his statue, and want it removed.

There is no question that Rhodes was not only a brilliant businessman, but was also what we would today call a White Supremacist. His extensive mining ambitions were never thwarted by clearing indigenous populations.

I remember learning about Rhodes at school, where he was always represented as a great Empire builder, who took wealth health and education to darkest Africa. What was never mentioned, however, was that he saw the world as one huge British colony. The following was written in his will, which I find rather shocking.
To and for the establishment, promotion and development of a Secret Society, the true aim and object whereof shall be for the extension of British rule throughout the world, the perfecting of a system of emigration from the United Kingdom, and of colonisation by British subjects of all lands where the means of livelihood are attainable by energy, labour and enterprise, and especially the occupation by British settlers of the entire Continent of Africa, the Holy Land, the Valley of the Euphrates, the Islands of Cyprus and Candia, the whole of South America, the Islands of the Pacific not heretofore possessed by Great Britain, the whole of the Malay Archipelago, the seaboard of China and Japan, the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of the British Empire, the inauguration of a system of Colonial representation in the Imperial Parliament which may tend to weld together the disjointed members of the Empire and, finally, the foundation of so great a Power as to render wars impossible, and promote the best interests of humanity.[49][50]

Rhodes was the world's richest man of his day, he was also extremely proud of his English nationality. He said "To be born English is to win first prize in the lottery of life".

His statue sits in a niche at Oriel, and personally I think it should stay where it is. Attempting to change history should not be tolerated, especially in one of the world's greatest centres of learning.

As controversial as Rhodes certainly is, one has to wonder how many Africans (or even Brits) would really want things to return to how they were before he brought so much change to their continent.

Rhodes-ia may no longer be called Rhodes-ia, but the wealth-creating mining and infrastructure is still in place, even if a small group of Oxford students refuse to appreciate as much.


25 comments:

  1. "...the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of the British Empire" made me smile.

    I agree that attempting to change history or to hide the truth is wrong. Recently our local government wanted to remove a monument that has been in our military cemetery since WW2 that listed the names of all the "colored" local men who died in service to our country in that war. The mayor said that it was racist and that a new monument should be erected with the black and white soldiers names together. But the thing is, at the time the old monument was put up the people who commissioned it thought they were doing the right thing. Our country was still segregated at that time and while that's a shameful part of our past, the local government wanted to acknowledge the sacrifice of those men. Taking down that monument doesn't change history, and I believe that history should be remembered accurately no matter how upsetting it is for some people.

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    1. I can see the Mayor's point, but I agree with you entirely. A nearby WW2 monument that was erected to remember the 'Barbaric Germans' (who murdered 13 innocent civilians) has now been changed to 'Barbaric Nazis'.

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  2. No matter how much the students complain, it doesn't alter the fact that at the time, Rhodes outlook and his ideals, were those commonly held by many in the UK - and accepted by the great majority - unacceptable though they may now be. The students obviously have little idea of past history, when a great deal of the atlas was coloured pink and part of the "Great British Empire".
    Unfortunately a certain section of student society is always looking for some way to stir up trouble.

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    1. It would have been even pinker if he'd had his way.

      I'm very pleased that the college saw sense (even if financially motivated), and told the students to get lost.

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  3. I don't think that we should go around knocking down monuments every person who's actions and beliefs don't fit with our own first world liberal one. They form part of the narrative of our planet and covering unpleasant bits serves no purpose. It's not as if we're worshipping at the bottom of their plinths. We can remember and learn from the actions of others whether 'good' or 'bad'. So subjective.

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    1. Absolutely. Rhodes was no saint, but his legacy is huge. History shouldn't become 'pick-n-nix'.

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  4. Blimey, he sounds a right little Hitler doesn't he?

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    1. Either that or the ultimate peace-maker. I suspect that his ideas would have caused more conflict than peace.

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  5. I tend to agree with you Cro. We can't look at the situation without the benefit of hindsight. The world was different then.
    I have friends who in the early fifties went off the Rhodesia as it was then, to work in white collar jobs in the copper mines. Now their grown up children are returning to settle back here (many of them saying they don't feel safe there any more). I must say that if I were an African I am sure I would feel very differently.

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    1. There was really no such thing as 'employment' there before Rhodes. He created huge wealth (mostly for himself).

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  6. Not much to ask for, then. The revolting students of Oxford are second only to the LSE when it comes to prohibited things, such as the sale of the Daily Mail on campus - banned. So much for free speech.

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    1. On the principle that students are 'professional thinkers', I suppose their duty is to be radical. However, their radicals could be more correctly aimed.

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  7. Very interesting! We lived in Hamburg (lot of its wealth through colonies) for 6 years - and Hamburg has a heated discussion about eliminating colonial monuments, renaming streets - and most are away. I think maybe it would be better to "frame" such monuments with (visual) information.
    And, (to use a highly carte blanche expression of 'Dame Edna'): "Call me old-fashioned, but..." coming from Bremen, I would miss the Übersee-Museum (now totally in the hands of didactically -spirited reformers - they removed merciless every single "romantic" niche which I enjoyed as a child so very much.

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    1. Museums are continually reorganising exhibits according to fashion, but when it comes to political expediency, it's not on!

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  8. This age of political correctness is driving me crazy. A publisher has pulled a children's book about George Washington because it was written about one of his slaves making him a johnny cake.
    So our first president is now being seen as an evil man because he owned slaves.

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    1. I can't stand PC in all it's forms; even when they're right.

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  9. Better to leave him where he is as a reminder that most white Brits probably agreed with him at one time, including the great-grandparents of those very students. Context is all.

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  10. Too much time on their hands. We railed against the Vietnam War (a good cause) but Che Guevera? I still see t-shirts with his countenance on it and know nothing about him (at least can't remember) except for the movie Motorcycle Diaries starring Gael Garcia Bernal as a young Che. Piffle.

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    1. Exactly. And too much brainwashing and not thinking for themselves. No nous.

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    2. Donna, I could tell you some horrific things about Guevera. I'm still amazed when I see posters and T shirts all over the place. The man was a blood-crazed monster.

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  11. Rhode's grew up in Bishop's Stortford, which was the nearest large town to us growing up. The Rhodes's Art Centre in town has, or at least used to have a giant back lit outline of Africa on the outside of the building, and as a small child, at night it used to look to me like a giant whole in the wall.

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  12. With the way politics of the US are deteriorating in this election year, I am all for bringing back the Queen.

    We were a different society than in Rhodes time. That was the past, and there it should remain. In some ways, we have come far, but not far enough.

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    1. It's certainly the case that times were very different then. But in many ways we've only developed because of people like Rhodes.

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