Zulu Rising

Zulu Rising

  • Author: Ian Knight
  • Publisher: Macmillans
  • Publish Date: 31/03/2010

Review By : Dr Adrian Chan-Wyles

I am a published author, and would like to offer you a review. I usually write articles about Chinese history, culture, philosophy and martial arts. In the December (2010) issue of Paranormal Magazine, my article appeared entitled 'The Devine Comet', regarding the relationship between Sir Isaac Newton, and his declared academic successor - William Whiston. I am currently engaged in an article regarding the Victorian gentleman, academic and social reformer - John Ruskin (1819 - 1900). I am very interested in the Anglo-Zulu War, particularly the Zulu perspective. This book maybe considered something of a forensic treatment of the Anglo-Zulu War, in all its aspects, from the forming of the mighty Zulu empire under King Shaka Zulu (d. 1828), through to the decision to invade and then annex Zululand in 1879 by the British colonial representatives in Natal. This is a study of a clear, brutal and unjust act of blatant imperialist expansion, an expansion that ended in effectively destroying an independent people and their culture. The impression of this study is that a small group of British politicians and military men sort to gain promotion and move forward their careers by playing a deadly game of colonial chess with the lives of others. The author, Ian Knight, has written many books on the subject of the Zulu people, and is considered something of a renowned scholar on the subject. This book deals with virtually every aspect of the British military invasion of Zululand, together with its consequences for both the British who took part, and the Zulu people who were eventually defeated. He is not an armchair researcher, but travels frequently to KwaZulu in Southern Africa to further his research and deepen his understanding of his chosen subject to study. In 2008, Ian Knight received the Anglo Zulu War Historical Society's Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Award, for his academic contribution in this field. The hardback (2010) edition contains 697 numbered pages. The book contains an Acknowledgement and a prologue, together with maps and ample photographs. It is separated into 29 Chapters, with an interesting Glossary and Notes section, as well as the usual index,etc. The work is meticulous and proceeds logically in a general chronological order. The Prologue - entitled 'The sun turned black', introduces the reader to the battlefield of Isandlwana in 2007, at a time when Ian Knight was at the site, collecting data for this book. At this time, Ian Knight observed modern Zulu people walking over the battlefield performing a traditional Zulu ritual designed to catch the spirits of the dead. When questioned by Ian Knight, these people explained that their ancestor died on this battlefield in 1879, and that they - his descendents - were attempting to free his spirit from the area of his violent death. There is much to consider in this presentation, as Ian Knight gives as much weight to Zulu culture, as he does British. However, the discerning reader will note that although British colonial interest suffered at the hands of the Zulus defending their country against invasion, Great Britain herself, thousands of miles away, remaineduntouched. For the Zulus, the story was quite different. What is important to consider is that the events ended in the death of thousands on both sides, were not initiated by the British government of the day, but rather was the brain-child of local colonial authority - namely Theophilus Shepstone and Sir Bartle Frere, militarily aided and abetted by Lord Chelmsford (formally Lt-Gen Frederic Thesiger). The idea was to quickly invade Zululand, defeat the armies of the Zulu King Cetchwayo, and claim the land for European settlement. This could all be achieved, so it was thought, very quickly, before the Britisg government could protest. With victory secured, the British government, would have no choice but to acknowledge the new colonial acquistion and promote all those involved for furthering the prestige of Queen Victoria abroad. Richard Holmes, the eminent British military historian, comments in Adrian Greaves' excellent book entitled 'Isandlwana', that the British underestimation of the Zulu ability to rage war, was, undoubtedly the product of the racist thinking common at the time. On Wednesday the 22nd January 1879, a Zulu army thought to number around 25,000, launched a highly disciplined attack upon the British military camp of Isandlwana. The battle is believed to have lasted around 90 minutes (between 12pm and 2pm). In that time 1,700 members of the British column were killed, with only around 55 managing to escape out of Zululand and back into British controlled Natal. Zulu casualties are uncertain, but are thought to be around 1,500 dead, with perhaps around 3,000 wounded. What is remarkable is that the British forces were armed with the new breech-loading rifle, cavalry, canon and rocket launchers, and were well stocked with ammunition. There were even dissident Zulu warriors in the British ranks. Ian Knight traces the origin of this humiliating military defeat, inflicted by a warrior-farm people, whose weapons consisted of a short stabbing spear, a battle hammer and a cowhide shield. The subsequent battles of Rorke's Drift and Ulundi are also covered, together with many others, as Ian Knight presents the eventual British victory and the resulting destrction of the fabric of Zulu culture by the intricacies of colonial politics, the greed of European settlers, and undermining of traditional Zulu beliefs by Christian missionaries. This is a superb book of history. Probably the best ever written on this subject.

Thursday 07th of July 2011 05:56:56 PM

Review By : Adrian Greaves

Ian Knight's new book is a mamoth re-telling of the battles of iSandlwana and Rorke's Drift, the culmination of more than thirty years of study. It sets the battle within the context of a catastrophic clash of cultures, examining the effect of British Imperial expansion on the Zulu border communities at Rorke's Drift, and in particular on the life of Mehlokazulu Ngobese. Mehlokazulu's famously ruthless punishment of his father's errant wives - who had sought sanctuary in Natal with their lovers - is here seen as the culmination of decades of Zulu frustration with the corrosive effects of British influence, a defining moment in an inevitable fracture in Anglo-Zulu affairs, and one from which the slaughter at iSandlwana directly flowed. The battle itself is explored through the lives and words of those who took part on both sides - through Mehlokazulu himself, through Muziwento, the 'Zulu boy' who lived near the battlefield and whose family was invitably sucked into the conflict, through the experience of Anthony Durnford, for whom the invasion of Zululand offered a hope of personal and professional redemption, and in the words of young British officers like Charlie Harford, Horace Smith-Dorrien and William Cochrane, and ordinary soldiers like Kumbeka Qwabe of the uVe or Fred Symons of the Natal Carbineers. 'Zulu Rising' reveals the deeper layers of conflict which underpinned the story of iSandlwana, and explores the battles iconic status in the history of both South Africa and the British Empire. Most of all, it is Ian Knight's most ambitious book to date, and an eloquent and exhaustive study of an event which was both epic and brutal, dramatic and poignant - but above all a tragedy which blighted the lives of almost all those who took part.

Wednesday 21st of October 2009 12:22:48 PM