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Southern Africa was once regarded as a worthless jumble of British colonies, Boer republics, and African chiefdoms, a troublesome region of little interest to the outside world. But then prospectors chanced upon the world’s richest deposits of diamonds and gold, setting off a titanic struggle between the British and the Boers for control of the land. The result was the costliest, bloodiest, and most humiliating war that Britain had waged in nearly a century, and the devastation of the Boer republics. The New Yorker calls this magisterial account of those years “[an] astute history.… Meredith expertly shows how the exigencies of the diamond (and then gold) rush laid the foundation for apartheid.”