The Rise & Fall of the Zulu Nation

John Laband, Author Arms & Armour Press $45 (576p) ISBN 978-1-85409-421-6
South African historian Laband is a distinguished scholar of Zulu history whose work remains unknown in the U.S. outside specialist circles. That should change with the appearance of this book. Initially published in South Africa in 1995 as Rope of Sand, this is the finest analysis to date of the Zulu kingdom's origins and nature, its complex internal politics and the conflicts with Boer and Briton that finally laid it low. Without neglecting such cultural elements as the importance for the Zulu warrior of purification after battle, which frequently influenced the conduct of campaigns, Laband treats the Zulu polity in a historical rather than an anthropological context. He demonstrates that, at its height, the Zulu kingdom was the most politically sophisticated, administratively integrated and militarily effective polity, black or white, south of the Zambesi. Laband emphasizes the central political and ritual role of the king while establishing the cultural restraints on royal power and the constant challenges from royal relatives and other great chiefs. Not only Shaka but his successors, notably Mpande and Ctsehwayo, emerged as skillful politicians and sophisticated diplomats. Laband's perceptive analysis of the relationship between war and politics in the Zulu system shows that the Zulu kingdom neither decayed from within nor conquered itself to destruction. Instead, it was overthrown by a British Empire whose superiority in a specific aspect of warmaking--the application of firepower to the battlefield--proved too much for a pre-industrial society by no means at a dead end when it faced the Gatlings and Martinis at Ulundi. Illustrations. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
Paperback - 544 pages - 978-1-85409-494-0
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