The Real Diamond Mine Behind The Fever Tree
Whilst working in the British Library I discovered the diaries of a young doctor who fought to expose a smallpox epidemic which had broken out in the diamond mines of South Africa. Reading further, it became clear that Cecil Rhodes, the great statesman, had covered up the epidemic to protect his investments in the mines. At the time it was reported as one of the worst medical scandals in British history, but it has since been all but forgotten.
My character Joseph Baier is modelled on the diamond magnates, and much of my character Edwin’s article for the Diamond Field, which features in the book, is based on fact, including Rhodes’s determination to reintroduce the flogging of African labourers. The Fever Tree exposes a darker side to Cecil Rhodes, and asks probing questions about the role the English played in the making of South Africa. The mining of blood diamonds, and the exploitation of Africa for its resources, went on then and still goes on today.
When I was in Kimberley, I came across a wonderful book of old photographs which give an amazing sense of time and place. Here are a handful, courtesy of the Kimberley Africana Library.