Zulu War between film and true story

The Zulu war of 1879 remains one of the dramatic wars experienced in history, especially in the British and the South African history. The war was fuelled by the British aggression coupled by their overconfidence and incompetence. The British were attracted to the Zulu land due to its richness in fertility and they also wanted to trade. The British began to invade the Zulu land in the hope of bringing along other people of British colonies and some African independent groups with an intention of implementing new economic development policies. The British High Commission in South Africa at the time – Sir Henry Bartle Frere believed that the Zulus were a threat to these new policies and in December 1878 he picked up a quarrel with the Zulu Kingdom and the war began in January 1879.

The war went badly to the British due to their arrogance and overconfidence. They believed that the Zulus were a weaker force because they used spears and shields as their main weapons which required them to be too close to their enemies while on the other hand, the British used more advanced weapons. Merely three weeks after the war had begun, the British force, under the command of Chelmsford, was defeated and most of their African followers killed. This saw more British troops rushed to South Africa from around the British Empire.

In March 1879 Lord Chelmsford formed two flanks to fight against the Zulu – the left flank and the right flank. These flanks however, suffered a major blow when the main Zulu Army fought them back. Even though, the British troops continued to advance invading towards Ulundi, the Zulu capital which they reached in June 1879. In July, Chelmsford defeated the Zulu army in the last face of the Great War. The Commander, Lord Chelmsford resigned after the war but it took the British a few more months to hold back resistance of the Zulus in the outskirt districts. King Cetshwayo was in the end rendered captive and sent to Cape Town. The British divided his land amongst the chiefs who were allied to them. This was a deliberate well thought after move which led to a decade of very destructive civil war.


John, D. (1996) The Zulu aftermath: Northwestern University Press.

Ian, K. (2003) The Zulu War 1879: Osprey Publishing.



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