By 1828, an overland route between the Cape Colony and Natal was beginning to provide an alternative to the arduous and frequently disastrous sea voyage. It was this virtually unknown trail that was chosen by a small party of travellers who set out from the Cape for Port Natal in September 1829. Leader of the venture was Lieutenant Francis George Farewell, returning, after a short stay in the Colony, to the trading settlement at Natal.
The Anglo-Zulu war is perhaps the most well-known colonial campaign of the Victorian or any other era. We know more about it than many other wars and it has generated an enormous amount of excellent scholarship. My particular interest in this subject, however, is driven by the wider context of the Anglo-Zulu war, of why it started and what its results were. It has often been assumed in the popular imagination that this war was little more than an unprincipled land grab driven by greed and instigated by a maverick, but the aim of this paper is to challenge some of these assumptions and to put forward a more radical and, I think, a more plausible answer to the question of why there was an Anglo-Zulu war in 1879.
Of All the whites who were trading from the settlement at Port Natal in the 1820s and 1830s, Henry Fynn is, to posterity, probably the best known. His repute today rests mainly on the adventure-book quality of his association with the Zulu king Shaka, and on the fact that this, in many ways the most fascinating period of his life, is also the best documented. 1 But it is often overlooked that of the forty-three years he lived in southern Africa, Fynn was resident only nineteen in Natal, and that for the greater part of his life after leaving England at the age of 15 he was based in the Cape colony. It is generally forgotten, too, that after his ten years of trading in Natal and the Zulu and Mpondo countries, he was for twenty-six years an official in the service of first the Cape and then the Natal colonial administrations.
“FIRST CHRISTIAN MARTYR OF THE NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MISSION SOCIETY”
King Shaka had established his authority over the Zulu people by the time the first few Europeans traded and hunted from Port Natal in 1824. They were no threat to the Zulu sovereignty. The large numbers of Voortrekkers with their deadly “roers” (muskets), horses and wagons, arrived in Natal in October 1837. There was a cataclysmic clash for land, water and cattle with the Zulus which saw the Voortrekkers establish their hegemony in Pietermaritzburg and create Mpande a vassal Zulu King on 14 February 1840. President A.W.J. Pretorius “seized” all land up to the Black Mfolozi river and well over 40,000 head of cattle. By 1842 the British had conquered the land south of the Thukela river.
Senzangakhona, is chief of a small clan known as the Zulu. Shaka is born near present-day Melmoth sometime in the mid-1780’s. His mother, Nandi, is a member of the eLangeni tribe and his father is Senzangakhona. Shaka’s parents’ marriage fails and Nandi is forced to take refuge amongst the Mthethwa clan. In 1816, Senzangakhona dies and Shaka is named Chief of the Zulu. Shaka immediately imposes a ramrod discipline over his troops and develops innovative battle strategies. By 1819, Shaka defeats his powerful rivals as more and more clans tender their allegiance to the Zulu clan and call themselves Zulu. By now, Shaka reigns supreme and is absolute master of practically all clans and chiefdoms north of uThukela river and south of uPhongolo river.