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4.0 out of 5 stars Good journalistic overview of the move from Randlords into De Beers, 12 April 2009
By 
Siriam (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Last Empire: De Beers, Diamonds and the World (Paperback)
I bought this book when travelling in Asia and then left it on the shelf for many years before opening its covers. Which is a pity on my part as the book is a good if slightly over colorful history of how the discovery of diamonds in the latter part of the 19th century led to the "Wild West" antics that dominated the Rand area in South Africa as every adventurer in the world (many from the UK) descended in search of quick profits and fortunes.

The tracing through the inevitable consolidation of so many small initial and uneconomic claims by early settlers under the more brutal exploitations of Cecil Rhodes initially and then by the Oppenheimer family is well explained especially the tightrope walked under the Afrikaaner party and apartheid systems and global marketing of their products. That this in turn led to the current domination by Be Beers and Anglo American of all mining not only in the home country but in other parts of the world by persistently controlling the routes to market is covered but while the book finishes at the release of Mandela, it is pretty lightweight on what happened across that time.

Where the book falls down most is that Kanfer displays more of the journalistic story view throughout than a deep historical analysis and could probably have benefitted from a better understanding of the financial aspects and economics of the industry, though his explanation of what happened with the US government in WW2 and since and the showdown with Israeli diamond cutters are exceptions.

Overall a good overview of a little covered area of history, not least as a result of the wall of De Beers endless secrecy across the decades in their home country.
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The Last Empire: De Beers, Diamonds and the World
The Last Empire: De Beers, Diamonds and the World by Stefan Kanfer (Paperback - 1 Jan 1999)
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