Twofish's Blog

December 2, 2006

Otto von Bismarck versus Cecil Rhodes

Filed under: china — twofish @ 8:22 am

Let me tell you want is really been bothering me this week.

The conflicting visions of Otto von Bismarck and Cecil Rhodes.

Both were empire builders of the late-19th century and were by current standards, unenlightened and bigoted.  But in their own time they were both progressives, and neither of them could be considered monsters.  Bismarck dreamed of creating the new German Empire out of small disparate states that had been disunited for centuries.  Rhodes dreamed of extending the old British Empire through the entire world.  Using the terminologies I used earlier Bismarck would be the continental/multinational power and Rhodes would be the oceanic/international one.

And I’ve been trying to think through what these two people really would have thought of each other.  Hate?  Envy?  Apathy? Jealousy? Admiration?

I do know that a lot of the motivation that Bismarck had for creating the German Empire was created out of jealousy of the established British Empire as embodied by Rhodes, and that this motivation became horrifically self-destructive in the next century.  But would the world have been better off if Bismarck not created Germany and that it remain a collection of weak states?  I don’t know.

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