Milner's Kindergarten

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Milner's Kindergarten is an informal reference to a group of Britons who served in the South African Civil Service under High Commissioner Alfred, Lord Milner, between the Second Boer War and the founding of the Union of South Africa. They were in favour of the South African union and, ultimately, an imperial federation of the British Empire itself. On Milner's retirement, most continued in the service under William Waldegrave Palmer, 2nd Earl of Selborne, who was Milner's successor. Many of these men themselves attained public prominence after their South African experience, hence the 'kindergarten' tag.

Other key members were:

Many of these men continued to associate formally after their South African service through their founding of The Round Table Journal, which was established to promote Imperial Federation. Patrick Duncan's obituary in the journal's September 1943 edition, may best describe their ethos:

"Duncan became the doyen of the band of brothers, Milner's young men, who were nicknamed . . .The Kindergarten, then in the first flush of youthful enthusiasm. It is a fast ageing and dwindling band now; but it has played a part in the Union of South Africa colonies, and it is responsible for the foundation and conduct of The Round Table. For forty years and more, so far as the vicissitudes of life have allowed, it has kept together; and always, while looking up to Lord Milner and to his successor in South Africa, the late Lord Selborne, as its political Chief, has revered Patrick Duncan as the Captain of the band."


Based on the early wills of the South African diamond magnate, Cecil Rhodes, and other indirect evidence, the American historian Carroll Quigley argued that the Kindergarten was a front organisation for the 'Society of the Elect', a secret society that he claimed was founded in 1891 by Rhodes and Milner.