The Boer Invasion of the Zulu Kingdom, 1837-1840
by Professor John Laband
I recently read the fairly-new book by Professor Laband, detailing the Boer invasion of the Zulu Kingdom, and would recommend it highly.
Most interesting for me is that Laband explores many of the myths that were later carefully cultivated around the war, and does a great job of comparing and contrasting these to historical reality. For most white South Africans, I would imagine their knowledge – if they have any at all – about the conflict, is entirely focused on the one-sided Battle of Blood River: an event deeply engrained in Afrikaner mythology.
Laband’s book shows there was a great deal more to the war than this, and is about as even-handed as one could hope to be; the simple fact – no matter how uncomfortable it might be for some to admit today – is that both the Voortrekkers and the Zulus were warlike, aggressively expansionist people. Neither deserves to be reinvented as the victim of the piece to suit modern-day whims.
If I am being hypercritical, there is, for me at least, a little too much time and space devoted to the minutiae of Zulu life, traditions and habits: I mean, do we really need to know how Dingane’s toe nails and poo were disposed of?
That said, it is an excellent addition to my library, and perhaps the best part of all is picturing the Defenders of the Myth stamping their feet at the “offensive” title, tying themselves in knots to assure one another that it wasn’t a ‘real’ invasion, and frantically trying to re-brand it as a ‘defensive’ invasion – whatever the hell that means. Perhaps they even like to pretend that it was actually (yet another?) ‘War of Independence’.
In the fevered-minds of the True Believers, the poor old Boers were always the innocent victims of every event ever, and only wished to be left in peace, right?