Leander Starr Jameson

Leander Starr Jameson was the archetypal late Victorian adventurer and imperialist. He was born in Stranraer in 1853, where his father was a lawyer and editor of the local paper, 'The Wigtownshire Free Press'.

Jameson studied medicine at University College Hospital, London and qualified as a doctor in 1875. In 1878 he went out to South Africa where he combined a successful medical practice with politics and economic self advancement. He used his influence with one of his patients, Lobenguela chief of the Matabeles, to win business concessions for Cecil Rhode's British South Africa Company and in 1890 he joined Rhodes in the invasion and occupation of Mashonaland. 

Cecil Rhodes, together with British politicians and businessmen keen to profit from the gold and diamond reserves of the Rand, plotted to bring South Africa under British control. These plans had the private support of the British Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain. In October 1895 Rhodes encouraged Jameson to lead the British South Africa Company's private army in an invasion of the Transvaal; this action, it was hoped, would lead to a local uprising and the overthrow of the Boer-led government. But the invasion, known to history as The Jameson Raid, went disastrously wrong and Jameson's men were forced to surrender to the Boers. There was a major political scandal in Britain and the British South Africa Company was forced to pay a considerable sum in compensation to the Transvaal government. Jameson was brought back to England where he was tried, found guilty and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment. He was later pardoned. 

The Jameson Raid, despite its failure, made the British public aware of the political situation in South Africa and was used by a pro-imperialist press to drum up a hatred of the Boers. In many ways it was a prelude to the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1901. 

Leander Starr Jameson went on to make a name for himself as a colonial administrator and in 1906 he became Prime Minister of Cape Colony. It is widely believed that Rudyard Kipling's poem 'If' was written in celebration of Jameson's personal qualities. 

Jameson died in 1917 and was buried next to Cecil Rhodes on Malindidzimu Hill in Zimbabwe. 

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