Synopses & Reviews
With a scholar's precision and a novelist's eye, Stefan Kanfer tells the inside story of De Beers Consolidated Mines - from the nineteenth century diamond rush that transformed Johannes De Beer's humble South African farm into an exotic klondike, to the Oppenheimers' shadow empire that has achieved umatched global reach.
De Beers Consolidated Mines is fighting for its life. The most powerful and secretive cartel in the world faces diamond smuggling in Angola, disruption in Russia, and a world-wide recession. But this is not the first emergency De Beers has confronted in its long history of struggle and survival. In The Last Empire, Stefan Kanfer chronicles the nineteenth-century diamond rush that transformed Johannes De Beer's humble South African farmstead into an exotic Klondike. With a scholar's precision and a novelist's eye, he recounts the rise of wild frontier towns like New Rush (now Kimberley) and Johannesburg, and their roisterous mix of plutocrats and prostitutes, gamblers and politicians. Kanfer shows the roots of the racial crisis in the developing land: the misery of black miners and the fortunes of white prospectors; the defeat of the African emperor Lobengula and the rise of his legendary adversary, Cecil Rhodes, who would rule both the Cape Colony and De Beers. In the twentieth century, the cartel comes under the control of the Oppenheimers, a German-Jewish dynasty that builds De Beers and its gold-mining twin, the Anglo American Corporation, into an empire of unmatched global reach, and creates a shadow government more flexible and powerful than South Africa's official leadership. Kanfer documents the Oppenheimers' dealings on and under the table: their condemnation of apartheid even as they exploit cheap black labor, their quiet takeover of Salomon Brothers, their monopoly on diamonds and their grip on gold maintained at all costs and by any means. And he uncovers the passionate inside story of the billionaire family whose empire, he argues, will survive well into thetwenty-firstcentury.