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The uglier side of British colonialism
MartinHafer17 May 2012
This final episode of the series focuses on two men--Cecil Rhodes and Charles Gordon. First, Gordon and his expeditions in China (briefly mentioned only) and Sudan were discussed. It seems that a religious zealot who named himself the 'Mahdi' assembled the desert peoples of the region into a surprisingly effective army. When Gordon was hired by the local government to fight off the Mahdi and his men, it was a losing proposition. They were simply outmatched and the British government under Gladstone had no interest in getting involved in another war. Gordon's destruction, however, turned out to be too much for the British people--and Gladstone was forced out of power because of this. Second, you have the weird story about Cecil Rhodes--an amazing opportunist who was a racist, imperialist and financial wizard. Arriving with nothing in South Africa as a teenager, he soon struck it rich in the diamond and later gold industry. But he also was VERY interested in power, and he became the prime minister of South Africa. But, Rhodes was NOT content--and soon his actions helped provoke the Boer War (between the British and native Dutch settlers). But, this was STILL not enough, and Rhodes went on to found his own nation (Rhodesia)! And, all this was accomplished by the time he was in his 40s when he died. What this private citizen might have done had he lived on is anyone's guess!! The episode ends with actual film footage of the very elderly Victoria at a parade as well as at her funeral soon after. It also discussed where the empire was in 1901--and the problems in Britain and abroad that it would soon have to face. Well done and well worth seeing--just like the rest of the series.
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