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Kingdom in Crisis: The Zulu Response to the British Invasion of 1879


Kingdom in Crisis: The Zulu Response to the British Invasion of 1879

4.2 (1975)

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    Available in PDF Format | Kingdom in Crisis: The Zulu Response to the British Invasion of 1879.pdf | English
    John Laband(Author)
John Laband's classic work is the first history of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 to examine in full the complexities of the Zulu response to the British invasion of their kingdom. He does more than substitute a Zulu perspective of the campaign for the British one. He gives a fascinating insight into the social, political and military traditions of the Zulus which made it so difficult for them to withstand the invaders. His compelling account is based on extensive archival research, and is written in vivid detail. He covers the prelude to the war, gives graphic accounts of the sequence of battles from Isandlwana to Ulundi that determined its outcome, and assesses the settlement that ended the war. He shows how the Zulus were unable to adapt their military methods to counter the British challenge. Mounting military disaster, diplomatic stalemate and economic disruption eventually eroded their king's authority and encouraged his leading subjects to abandon his cause and come to terms with the British.
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Book details

  • PDF | 288 pages
  • John Laband(Author)
  • Pen & Sword Military (1 Aug. 2007)
  • English
  • 5
  • History
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Review Text

  • By Adrian Chan-Wyles Ph.D on 14 April 2011

    This book carries the subtitle - 'The Zulu Response To The British Invasion of 1879' - and covers this historical period in a balanced and authoritative manner. The author, John Laband, is recorded as the Professor of History at Wilfred Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, at the time of writing. He has written extensively upon the subject of the Zulu and Boer Wars, and the history of southern Africa. John Laband is academically well placed to comment upon these matters, offering highly accessible and clear political and historical narratives.The paperback (2007) edition contains 274 numbered pages, and is comprised of the following chapters:Introduction - The Stakes of War.1) Grounds for aggression.2) The Zulu policy and the ultimatum crisis.3) Opposing armies.4) The Battle of Isandlwana.5) The Battle of Rorke's Drift.6) Defeat on the coast and disarray in the west.7) The lull.8) The turning point.9) The battle of Gingindlovu.10) Warding off the falling tree.11) The battle in the plain.12) A king who flees to the mountain is finished.There are no photographs, but the book does contain 4 maps:a) Zululand in 1879.b) Isandlwana, 22 January 1879.c) Nyezane, 22 January 1879.d) Gingindlovu, 2 April 1879.Laband carefully traces the events that led to the British army invading Zululand on the 11th of January 1879. This military invasion ended with the final defeat of the Zulu army on the 4th of July, 1879. The British campaign did not go according to plan, and the British military suffered a disasterous defeat at Isandlwana, and got the worse of a number of later skirmishes in force. Laband asserts that virtually all source documents available on this subject, originate from the British colonial and military authorities, and are comprised of interviews of various Zulu warriors, officers and chiefs, conducted after the war, and carried out by European inquisitors. Nevertheless, Laband points out that although in places the Zulu witnesses may have been saying what the British wanted to hear, by and large, an educated eye can see through the nonsense and pick out the truth of the matter. The British colonial authorities, added and abetted by the British military, viewed the politically and economically independent and militarily strong Zulu kingdom as a threat to British colonial interests in south Africa. The British felt that such an independent African kingdom offered hope to the already subjugated Black populace residing within British colonial possessions. Such independence might well serve to encourage indigenous Africans to rise up and over throw the colonial yoke. For Britain's colony to be safe, Zulu land had to be destroyed. The Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 achieved this imperialist aim.Many are fascinated by the Zulu victory at Isandlwana - where 20,000 Zulu warriors destroyed a British Army column, killing or routing around 800 British imperial troops and some 800 African auxilleries, as well as a number of civillian staff, etc. Laband, by covering the entire conflict in context, makes clear that earlier on exactly the same day (January the 22nd, 1879), the Zulu army suffered a crushing defeat at Nyezane, in the south of Zululand, and yet another defeat at Rorke's Drift (Natal) later that day. It is generally accepted that this war resulted in 8 major clashes between Zulu and British forces, although there were many other skirmsihes throughout. Laband's research shows that by 1879, the Zulu king (Cetshwayo) did not have the total power of his predecessors, (Shaka, Dingane and Mpande), and although many thousands of Zulu men answered the call of his military assembly, many regional rulers of his kingdom, were in favour of accepting British terms and reluctant in fully supporting the king in the defence of their country. This is a remarkable observation when one considers that the British ultimatum effectively demanded the end of Zulu political, cultural and military independence. It is also true that on occasion, many Zulu warriors when in the field, together with some of their officers, openly disobeyed direct orders from Cetshwayo, and his appointed generals. As a result, of the 8 major battles, the Zulu army won 3 (Isandlwana, Ntombe Drift and Hlobane) and lost 5 (Nyezane, Rorke's Drift, Kambala, Gingindlovu and Ulundi). The Zulu army could not over come a Laagered position, and in the final battle (Ulundi), the British army assumed a massive infantry square (unlaagered), and defeated the Zulu army in the open.Amongst the many interesting and compelling works in this genre, this book stands out. Laband has managed to present a complex set of historical events in a logical and progressive order. An essential read of much academic merit.

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