Cecil John Rhodes (July 5, 1853 - March 26, 1902) was a British Imperialist entrepreneur and the effective founder of the state of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), named after himself. He profited greatly from southern Africa's natural resources.
Rhodes was born in Bishop's Stortford, England, United Kingdom the son of a vicar, and travelled to South Africa as a young man for the benefit of his health. He soon began making a profit off mining the Kimberley diamond mines, and he formed his own company, De Beers Consolidated Mines in 1888.
Some of his biographers have speculated that Rhodes, who never married, was homosexual. He employed a number of strong young male companions, ostensibly as bodyguards and secretaries. His correspondance reveals that he had close emotional relations with these young men and was often devastated when they married. Researchers agree, however, that Rhodes does not have seem to have explored or even been conscious of this sexual orientation, a fact that is not surprising in a man who took Victorian values so seriously. It should be noted, however, that most biographers dismiss this speculation and that there exists no accepted agreement on Rhodes' supposed homosexuality.
On his return to England, he studied at Oriel College, Oxford, but was obliged to return to a better climate and went into politics, becoming a member of the Cape House of Assembly. By 1890 he was Prime Minister of the Cape Colony. He also became managing director of the South Africa Company, which administered a territory roughly equivalent to present-day Zimbabwe. He resigned as Prime Minister in 1896, following the outcry over the "raids" into Transvaal by his friend Dr. Leander Starr Jameson.
Although he remained a leading figure in the politics of southern Africa, especially during the Boer War, he was dogged by ill-health throughout his relatively short life. As a result of his will, the Rhodes Scholarships, which enable foreign nationals to study at Oxford, came into being.
Rhodesia, after a long campaign of violence by African nationalist liberation movements (ZAPU and ZANU), became an independent African state in 1980 under its current modern name, Zimbabwe ("the big house of stone"), after the ancient city, the Great Zimbabwe.