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The Zulu Kings

By Brian Roberts

This is a saga of the Zulu empire at its height — its customs and rituals, its bloodthirsty battles, above all, its larger-than-life personalities.

The mighty Shaka, who founded the dynasty in the early nineteenth century, welded the Zulu people into a formidable military kingdom. His assassination by his treacherous half-brother, Dingane, did nothing to lessen the rule of terror. But the self-indulgent Dingane, although cruel and despotic, was no warrior and his reign ended in disaster. Defeated by the Boers at the battle of Blood River, Dingane was eventually forced to flee Zululand and died in exile. 

After Dingane’s death the neighbouring territory of Natal became a white settlement and the course of Zulu history changed. A third brother, Mpande, was proclaimed King by the Boers and reigned more or less peacefully. Mpande was followed by his son Cetshwayo, whose attempt to revive Zulu power brought him into conflict with the British and resulted in the downfall of his nation in the Zulu War of 1879. Cetshwayo’s son, Dinuzulu, inherited little more than his father’s misfortunes. 

Brian Roberts tells the story of the rise and fall of this Zulu dynasty in colourful detail. But it is the first two Kings — the resolute Shaka and the fickle Dingane — who dominate the book. Ruling when Zululand was independent and all-powerful, their tyrannical regimes transformed the tribal pattern in southern Africa. 

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