LIKE LIONS THEY FOUGHT: The Zulu War and the Last Black Empire in South Africa by Robert B. Edgerton

LIKE LIONS THEY FOUGHT: The Zulu War and the Last Black Empire in South Africa

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This compact, well-written history focuses on the 1879 battles between British troops and Zulu warriors that resulted in the destruction of the last great black African empire. Edgerton (Anthropology, Psychiatry/UCLA) succeeds in two important ways: by capturing the flow of battle from both the British and the Zulu sides (the latter filled-in from previously untranslated Zulu accounts), and by providing lively sociological and anthropological background on the training, motives, and perceptions of battle on both sides--beginning with the Zulu victory at Isandlwana (a great, bloody defeat for the British) and concluding with the defeat of the Zulus and their king, Cetshwayo, at Ulundi. Unfortunately, however, Edgerton fails to put the war firmly enough into a broader political context, aside from an introductory chapter on British imperial policy, and is superficial about Zulu politics. In addition, he misses the opportunity to draw connections between Zulu motives and fighting patterns in the last century and the often violent responses of today's Zulus toward the creation of a coherent organizational structure--a fitful creation in which older, traditional family and clan rivalries have come into play. Vivid, and useful for its inclusion of Zulu sources and point-of-view, but Jeff Guy's The Destruction of the Zulu Kingdom remains the pivotal source on the subject.

Pub Date: April 25th, 1988
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan