Rhodes and His Banker by Richard Steyn – the story of a remarkable friendship

Rhodes and His Banker: Empire, Wealth and the Coming of Union by Richard Steyn is out this month from Jonathan Ball Publishers.

Rhodes and his Banker tells the story of the remarkable friendship between Cecil John Rhodes, a larger-than-life historical figure, and Sir Lewis Michell, a modest, unassuming banker.

The financial institution that brought the two together – the Standard Bank – was at the heart of South Africa’s transformation from agricultural backwater to industrial powerhouse in the late 19th century, thanks to the discovery first of diamonds and then of gold.

Richard Steyn, the author of acclaimed biographies of Jan Smuts, Louis Botha and Alfred Milner, intertwines the stories of Rhodes and Michell, chronicling the growth of the Standard Bank under Michell’s careful stewardship and the seemingly irresistible rise of Rhodes, rapacious entrepreneur and empire-builder. He situates Rhodes and Michell at the high noon of the British Empire, a time when the benefits of British rule seemed self-evident to its ruling elite.

Michell became Rhodes’s trusted confidant and published the first posthumous biography of ‘the Colossus’. The banker’s position gave him a unique insight into the character and motives of this most controversial and self-driven of British imperialists. Michell also did ever ything he could to fulfil Rhodes’s ambition for a united South Africa and played a key role in setting up the Rhodes Scholarships, perhaps the most enduring legacy of Rhodes’s career.

About the author

Richard Steyn is the author of several bestselling books, including Jan Smuts: Unafraid of Greatness (2015) and Louis Botha: A Man Apart (2018). He practised as a lawyer before switching to journalism. Steyn edited the Natal Witness in Pietermaritzburg from 1975–1990, was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 1985 – 1986 and editor-in-chief of The Star from 1990–1995. He served as Standard Bank’s Director of Corporate Affairs from 1996–2001 before returning to writing.

Categories Non-fiction South Africa South African Current Affairs

Tags Jonathan Ball Publishers New books New releases Rhodes and His Banker Richard Steyn

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