Diamonds, Gold, and War by Martin Meredith

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: Boer, what’s it good for?

Quick synopsis: The story of how South Africa went from a backwater British colony to one of the most sought-after prizes on earth. (Spoiler alert: It’s in the title, obviously.)

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: The Boer Wars have nothing to do with pigs.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: Winston Churchill was a prisoner of war during the Second Boer War and escaped.

My Take: So what the hell is a Boer? I’ll tell you.

When European nations started sailing around Africa to get to Southeast Asia, they realized they needed a place to stop on the way. South Africa seemed like the perfect spot. Over a whole bunch of decades, white Europeans from Holland, the Netherlands, Germany, etc. populated the area of South Africa for trade. It was a nice spot and basically only served as a stopping off point and not much else.

Until in 1871, diamonds were found. A lot of them. Fifteen years later, gold was found. A lot of it. You can guess what happened when people realized how much money could be made by digging. Just like anywhere else, people began to clash, kill each other, and started taking over swaths of land. Wars broke out and a lot of people were caught in the middle.

Meredith fills in all of the details of the events above in a great narrative. He focuses on some key players, but he adeptly gives the reader vivid visions of what it was like to be sent into one of these mines or to be in the middle of a pitched battle. It covers a lot of ground, so if you are don’t care about the topic at all it may be too much for a non-nerd.

Verdict: This is an enormous piece of work which covers an amazing amount of time and events. It should not be nearly as riveting as it is. Great book.

If You Liked This Try:

  • Candice Millard, Hero of the Empire
  • Neil Thornton, Rorke’s Drift
  • Mike Snook, Like Wolves on the Fold
  • Martin Meredith, Diamonds, Gold, and War
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Diamonds, Gold, and War by Martin Meredith
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