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Southern Rhodesia

A mineral mine in Suthern Rhodesia, from: Southern Rhodesia handbook 1914. London: British South Africa Company, 1914 [FCO Historical Collection DT2900 BRI]A mineral mine in Suthern Rhodesia, from: Southern Rhodesia handbook 1914. London: British South Africa Company, 1914 [FCO Historical Collection DT2900 BRI]This little handbook was compiled by the British South Africa Company with the intention ‘of extending the information generally current about Rhodesia, particularly in the direction of affording possible settlers a comprehensive idea of the country to which they would be going.’

It informed its reader that Southern Rhodesia could be reached by two routes, the ‘shorter and quicker one,’ taking ’19 days, 5 hours - Southampton to Bulawayo’ and the longer, ‘infinitely preferable’ one (because of the many interesting places en route) via the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, taking 34.5 days from Southampton to Salisbury.

Apart from giving the reader practical advice about life in the country, its history, geography and its institutions, the book was particularly concerned with drawing the reader’s attention to the great prospects in farming and mining. Thus, it lists in great detail all the different metals and precious stones the land offers and which had successfully been mined in the past. It was later claimed that the British South Africa Company intentionally exaggerated the country’s gold deposits to encourage more settlers to emigrate.

At the time the book was published, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was administered by the British South Africa Company as a protectorate. The Company, established by the entrepreneur Cecil Rhodes (1853–1902), had been granted a Royal charter in 1889, which allowed it to control mining, trade and immigration and to provide police and the legal system in areas where it had acquired land rights from local rulers. Company rule in Southern Rhodesia ended in 1923, when the British government decided not to renew the company’s charter and to grant responsible government status to the white settlers.

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