SHAKA’S CHILDREN

A History of the Zulu People

HarperCollins, London, 1994
 

History has portrayed Shaka, founder of the Zulu nation, as a pitiless conqueror who depopulated vast tracts of southern Africa. Yet the white fortune-seekers who first visited Zulu territory in the 1820s described a civilized and dignified people whose martial qualities were tempered by generosity and hospitality. Within a few years all this changed as expanding colonial populations entered Zululand and an image emerged of the warrior as a regimented man-killing machine. Only from the ashes of battles against Boer and Briton was the Zulu resurrected as a “noble savage”, magnificent in defeat.

Oral history was central to my approach to the subject. All too often African history has been lost or buried by colonialism but early in the last century James Stuart, a fluent Zulu-speaker and travelling magistrate, compiled a trove of material based on records from tribal leaders and elders.

The subject took on a fresh resonance during South Africa's political transition when tribal orders long buried in the fight against apartheid re-emerged. Zulus, in the vanguard a century ago of the formation of the ANC, have returned to the centre of power as the country’s largest single population group.
 

Reviews 

“Stephen Taylor makes much use of unfamiliar archival material. He does nothing to dispel the savage grandeur of Zulu legend; but he manages to keep in our minds, throughout the saga proud and bitter, the fact that the Zulu were never  less human than the white men ... It is his great achievement that he makes the motives of all sides in this story equally comprehensible. He has produced a generous and truly moving work.”

Jan Morris, The Independent

 

“A timely and necessary book. Stephen Taylor has been to the necessary sources. His writing is solid, its pace steady. He also recognizes that another account of the forging of the Zulu nation would be valueless without an appraisal of the Zulu role in the new South Africa. The one he offers is very well done and may be his most worthwhile contribution.”

Noel Mostert, The New York Times

 

“Stephen Taylor’s book is very timely. His thesis is that “once the cement of apartheid which had bonded together the foes of white domination, was lost, the ethnic bricks that made up this diverse and complex nation would be exposed ...” Looking at the events of 1994, it is impossible to disagree.”

The Financial Times

 

“Stephen Taylor’s telling of this fierce and tragic history is vivid without being emotive and comprehensive without being dull.”

The Daily Telegraph

 

“The “Great Men” theory of history has been out of favour for many years now but, as Stephen Taylor’s enthralling book shows, it has to be dusted down again if South Africa is to be properly considered.”

– The Scotsman

SHAKA’S CHILDREN

A History of the Zulu People

HarperCollins, London, 1994

History has portrayed Shaka, founder of the Zulu nation, as a pitiless conqueror who depopulated vast tracts of southern Africa. Yet the white fortune-seekers who first visited Zulu territory in the 1820s described a civilized and dignified people whose martial qualities were tempered by generosity and hospitality. 

 

Within a few years all this changed as expanding colonial populations entered Zululand and an image emerged of the warrior as a regimented man-killing machine. Only from the ashes of battles against Boer and Briton was the Zulu resurrected as a “noble savage”, magnificent in defeat.

Oral history was central to my approach to the subject. All too often African history has been lost or buried by colonialism but early in the last century James Stuart, a fluent Zulu-speaker and travelling magistrate, compiled a trove of material based on records from tribal leaders and elders.

The subject took on a fresh resonance during South Africa's political transition when tribal orders long buried in the fight against apartheid re-emerged. Zulus, in the vanguard a century ago of the formation of the ANC, have returned to the centre of power as the country’s largest single population group.
 

Reviews 

“Stephen Taylor makes much use of unfamiliar archival material. He does nothing to dispel the savage grandeur of Zulu legend; but he manages to keep in our minds, throughout the saga proud and bitter, the fact that the Zulu were never  less human than the white men ... It is his great achievement that he makes the motives of all sides in this story equally comprehensible. He has produced a generous and truly moving work.”

Jan Morris, The Independent

 

“A timely and necessary book. Stephen Taylor has been to the necessary sources. His writing is solid, its pace steady. He also recognizes that another account of the forging of the Zulu nation would be valueless without an appraisal of the Zulu role in the new South Africa. The one he offers is very well done and may be his most worthwhile contribution.”

Noel Mostert, The New York Times

 

“Stephen Taylor’s book is very timely. His thesis is that “once the cement of apartheid which had bonded together the foes of white domination, was lost, the ethnic bricks that made up this diverse and complex nation would be exposed ...” Looking at the events of 1994, it is impossible to disagree.”

The Financial Times

 

“Stephen Taylor’s telling of this fierce and tragic history is vivid without being emotive and comprehensive without being dull.”

The Daily Telegraph

 

“The “Great Men” theory of history has been out of favour for many years now but, as Stephen Taylor’s enthralling book shows, it has to be dusted down again if South Africa is to be properly considered.”

– The Scotsman

SHAKA’S CHILDREN

A History of the Zulu People

HarperCollins, London, 1994
 

History has portrayed Shaka, founder of the Zulu nation, as a pitiless conqueror who depopulated vast tracts of southern Africa.  

 

Yet the white fortune-seekers who first visited Zulu territory in the 1820s described a civilized and dignified people whose martial qualities were tempered by generosity and hospitality. Within a few years all this changed as expanding colonial populations entered Zululand and an image emerged of the warrior as a regimented man-killing machine. Only from the ashes of battles against Boer and Briton was the Zulu resurrected as a “noble savage”, magnificent in defeat.

Oral history was central to my approach to the subject. All too often African history has been lost or buried by colonialism but early in the last century James Stuart, a fluent Zulu-speaker and travelling magistrate, compiled a trove of material based on records from tribal leaders and elders.

The subject took on a fresh resonance during South Africa's political transition when tribal orders long buried in the fight against apartheid re-emerged. Zulus, in the vanguard a century ago of the formation of the ANC, have returned to the centre of power as the country’s largest single population group.
 

Reviews 

“Stephen Taylor makes much use of unfamiliar archival material. He does nothing to dispel the savage grandeur of Zulu legend; but he manages to keep in our minds, throughout the saga proud and bitter, the fact that the Zulu were never  less human than the white men ... It is his great achievement that he makes the motives of all sides in this story equally comprehensible. He has produced a generous and truly moving work.”

Jan Morris, The Independent

 

“A timely and necessary book. Stephen Taylor has been to the necessary sources. His writing is solid, its pace steady. He also recognizes that another account of the forging of the Zulu nation would be valueless without an appraisal of the Zulu role in the new South Africa. The one he offers is very well done and may be his most worthwhile contribution.”

Noel Mostert, The New York Times

 

“Stephen Taylor’s book is very timely. His thesis is that “once the cement of apartheid which had bonded together the foes of white domination, was lost, the ethnic bricks that made up this diverse and complex nation would be exposed ...” Looking at the events of 1994, it is impossible to disagree.”

The Financial Times

 

“Stephen Taylor’s telling of this fierce and tragic history is vivid without being emotive and comprehensive without being dull.”

The Daily Telegraph

 

“The “Great Men” theory of history has been out of favour for many years now but, as Stephen Taylor’s enthralling book shows, it has to be dusted down again if South Africa is to be properly considered.”

– The Scotsman

Stephen Taylor