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Zulu War

Zulu War, 1879. The war was the unforeseen result of the desire of Lord Carnarvon, the British colonial secretary, to unite the British colonies and Boer (Afrikaner) republics in South Africa to guarantee the security of white settlers. Sir Bartle Frere, sent out as high commissioner to implement Carnarvon's plan, concluded that Cape Colony would not co-operate as long as the Transvaal Boers were at loggerheads with their Zulu neighbours. Theophilus Shepstone, a colonial servant thought to have unparalleled knowledge of the Zulus, and who had formerly supported their claims against the Boers, had recently annexed the Transvaal for Britain and now sought to win the Boers' favour by taking up their cause. In spite of receiving the report of a boundary commission which insisted that the Transvaalers' claims against the Zulus had no justification, Frere accepted Shepstone's statement that Zulu military strength constituted a threat to stability in South Africa. Against Carnarvon's strict instructions, Frere demanded impossible concessions from the Zulu ruler and then invaded Zululand in January 1879. The British government accepted the fait accompli and superior British arms overcame the courage and inappropriate tactics of the Zulus who surrendered in July. It was not Britain's intention to annex Zululand so the country was first split into thirteen districts under chiefs who had little support. The renewed aggression of the Boers after the Transvaal had reasserted its internal autonomy in 1881 induced Britain to recognize their claims over a portion of Zululand and the remaining Zulu territory was incorporated into the British colony of Natal.

Kenneth Ingham

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Zulu War

Zulu War (1879) Conflict in South Africa between the British and the Zulu. Fearing a Zulu attack, the Afrikaners of Transvaal requested British protection. The British High Commissioner demanded that the Zulu king, Cetewayo, disband his army. He refused, and the Zulu made a surprise attack at Isandhlwana, killing 800 British soldiers. Lacking modern weapons, the Zulu were checked at Rorke's Drift and decisively defeated at Ulundi.

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