The History of the Zulu Nation - Zulu Kingdom KwaZulu Natal South Africa

The history of the amaZulu or the Zulu Kingdom begins with Zulu, progenitor of the Zulu Tribe. Zulu, in fact, was the name of the son of a sixteenth century chief who settled in the region of present day KwaZulu-Natal on South Africa’s east coast.

More than two hundred years later, in the early 1800s, the descendants of Zulu, having adopted his name to represent their clan, consisted of about 1500 people who fell firmly under the control of Dingiswayo, a powerful leader who had systematically begun to absorb the smaller clans of the region who he had defeated in combat. In turn however, Shaka, who had distinguished himself in Dingiswayo’s army, became chief of the Zulu clan and set about engaging in a similar process, only this time transforming his small chiefdom into what was to become a ruthless army that paved the way for the emergence of the Zulu nation and its domination of the region.

It’s a culture that in the nineteenth century earned the grudging respect of the world’s foremost imperial and military power and that even today is synonymous with pride and resistance. It is perhaps best known for Shaka, the ambitious and brilliant leader, and its name – Zulu – roles easily off the western tongue.

King Shaka Zulu was something of a military genius but inevitably, after a dramatic fashion, time-honoured amongst the world’s monarchies, he was assassinated by his half brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana. They in turn quarrelled, with Dingane assuming leadership of the Zulu. Dingane lacked Shaka’s military and leadership skills however and the cracks in the kingdom began to show as rebel chiefs broke away.

These cracks were exacerbated by armed conflict with the newly arrived Voortrekkers in 1838. The Voortrekkers were pioneers of Dutch extraction who comprise today’s Afrikaners. Ultimately Dingane was killed by the army of Mpande, his remaining half brother, who in turn succeeded to the monarchy and ruled the Zulu nation from 1840 to 1872. The shrewd politician Mpande was succeeded by his son (and Shaka’s nephew) Cetshwayo. The subsequent growth of military pride and strength, coupled with resurgence in nationalism, led the Zulus and the colonial power of Britain down the road to the Anglo Zulu War.

The first clash happened at Isandlwana on the 22 January 1879 where the Zulu nation inflicted the heaviest defeat the British had until then suffered in the colonies. It was a conflict that ended with the eventual defeat of the Zulus six months later. At the end of the Anglo Zulu War the Colonial Office immediately initiated their policy of ‘divide and rule’ by splitting the power of the king between 13 chiefdoms. It was only in 1950 that the white Nationalist government restored the paramount authority of the Zulu king, but then, and even now, the powers of the king were largely symbolic.

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The Battlefields region includes the Boer Zulu War of 1838, Anglo Zulu War of 1879 and the Anglo Boer War's.


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For more on Zulu history, culture and traditions use the menu on the right.

Culture & History
South Africa:

» Introduction

» Zulu Culture & History
» King Shaka Zulu
» Boer Zulu War of 1838
» Anglo Zulu War of 1879
» Anglo Boer War's
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