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Shaka Zulu assassinated

Shaka Zulu assassinated


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Shaka, founder of the Zulu Kingdom of southern Africa, is murdered by his two half-brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana, after Shaka’s mental illness threatened to destroy the Zulu tribe.

When Shaka became chief of the Zulus in 1816, the tribe numbered fewer than 1,500 and was among the smaller of the hundreds of other tribes in southern Africa. However, Shaka proved a brilliant military organizer, forming well-commanded regiments and arming his warriors with assegais, a new type of long-bladed, short spear that was easy to wield and deadly. The Zulus rapidly conquered neighboring tribes, incorporating the survivors into their ranks. By 1823, Shaka was in control of all of present-day Natal. The Zulu conquests greatly destabilized the region and resulted in a great wave of migrations by uprooted tribes.

In 1827, Shaka’s mother, Nandi, died, and the Zulu leader lost his mind. In his grief, Shaka had hundreds of Zulus killed, and he outlawed the planting of crops and the use of milk for a year. All women found pregnant were murdered along with their husbands. He sent his army on an extensive military operation, and when they returned exhausted he immediately ordered them out again. It was the last straw for the lesser Zulu chiefs: On September 22, 1828, his half-brothers murdered Shaka. Dingane, one of the brothers, then became king of the Zulus.

READ MORE: 7 Influential African Empires


How Shaka Zulu Changed the World

He was both a brutal warrior and a symbol of African unity, inviting comparisons to the bloodthirsty but brilliant military leaders of ancient Sparta.

Shaka Zulu may be a polarizing figure, but he's one who forever left a mark on the history of the region.

The famed 19th-century leader of South Africa's Zulus brought tribal factions together for the first time, creating both a state and a powerful sense of identity for the region's largest group &mdash a common culture that remains today. His militaristic actions also caused a rippling effect throughout Africa, forever disturbing the balance of power.

Warriors trained and regrouped for conquest

Southern Africa was inhabited by a number of groups in the late 18th century, from the native Xhosa and Zulu to the Boers and the British, who'd recently acquired the Cape area for their crown. Each group had its own interests, which resulted in many battles over territory and resources.

The Zulu people &mdash who numbered in the tens of thousands &mdash were concentrated in the southeastern portion of what would become the country of South Africa. They shared a culture, but remained a disorganized cluster of clans without a common leader until a vicious warrior united them.

In 1816, Shaka Zulu took power of his Zulus after distinguishing himself in battle, both physically and strategically, and began a campaign of conquest to unite all of the clans in the region under his rule.

Shaka began with a systematic reorganization of Zulu warriors, implementing a rigid training program, new blade weaponry that replaced the traditional spear, new attack formations and a strict code of obedience. Zulu society &mdash much like Sparta &mdash was entirely restructured to support the army.

In just a couple of years, his army had brutally executed, displaced or assimilated a vast territory with more than 200,000 inhabitants who became his subjects. Despite its violent methodology, his clan had formed one united nation &mdash the biggest and most powerful in southern Africa.

Shaka's campaigns part of a larger chaos

An increasingly cruel and paranoid Shaka Zulu was assassinated in 1828, but that didn't mark the end of his effects on the history of southern Africa.

Besides creating a political entity in the Zulu Kingdom, Shaka's military campaigns caused the massive displacement of people, a crisis that became part of a decades-long period of turmoil historians call the Mfecane (or the "scattering").

From the 1820s to the 1840s, those who weren&rsquot killed or assimilated by the encroaching Zulu warriors fled, leading to a refugee crisis and reshuffling of South Africa's traditional settlements. Many groups banded together for security, forming new communities. The tiny nations of Lesotho and Swaziland, both almost wholly enveloped by South Africa, were birthed by tribes escaping the chaos.

Existing famines also worsened during the Mfecane, leading to the origin of a few cheap jokes about European missionaries being cooked up in big, bubbling pots.

Cannibalism either didn't happen or occurred very infrequently during this time, historians say, but all the hostility present during the Mfecane caused rumors to spread like wildfire and be reported as fact by Europeans.


Shaka Zulu (1787-1828)

Shaka Zulu established the Zulu Empire and revolutionized warfare in Southern Africa in the early 19th Century. Shaka was born in 1787. His father, Senzangakhona, was a minor chief of one of the Zulu-speaking clans and his mother, Nandi, was daughter of Chief Mbhengi of the rival clan. Shaka’s birth was considered a sin because his parents were from different clans. Due to pressure from tribal leaders Shaka’s parents separated resulting in the exile of him and his mother from his father’s clan. Shaka’s mother returned to her Elangeni where she was shunned. Consequently, her son Shaka was harassed, tormented, and neglected.

As Shaka grew older, he recalled with anger his tormenting by Elangeni members. Upon reaching manhood he deserted the Elangeni and became affiliated with the Mthethwa clan. He served as a warrior for six years under the reign of Dingiswayo, the Mthethwa’s chief. Dingiswayo was impressed by Shaka’s courage and endurance and remained with the Mthethwa until he learned of the death of his father, Senzangakhona, in 1816.

Shaka claimed his father’s chieftaincy with military assistance from Dingiswayo. With his experience learned from the Mthethwa, he transformed his clan’s military from a largely ceremonial force into a powerful army capable of both defense and aggression.

In 1818, Shaka’s mentor Dingiswayo was assassinated by Zwide, the chief of the Ndwandwe clan. Shaka sought revenge and received it in 1820 with the Zulu’s victory over the Ndwandwe in the Battle of Mhlatuze River. Shaka then set out to forge the various Zulu-speaking clans into a powerful empire. As he incorporated rival groups, the Zulu Empire’s population reached an estimated 250,000 and his state emerged as the largest in the history of Southern Africa. In 1827, at the height of his power, Shaka could order into the field of battle over 50,000 warriors and controlled most of the area that is now the modern state of South Africa.

Shaka’s actions became simultaneously more tyrannical, ruthless and bizarre as power concentrated in his hands. In 1827 at the height of his power, his mother, Nandi, died. Anger over her death and over her (and his) treatment at the hands of the Elangeni led him to order the massacre of thousands of tribal members. His brutal treatment of his own Army nearly led to its mutiny.

In 1828, Shaka was assassinated by his half brothers, Dingane and Mhlangana. Dingane assumed control of the Empire which lasted another half century before finally being crushed by the British Army.


Shaka Zulu, the unmatched African military leader (1787-1828)

In Southern Africa at the beginning of the nineteenth (19th) century, Shaka Zulu set up Zulu Kingdom and completely changed its warfare.

In 1787 Shaka was born to Senzangakhona who was a minor chief of one of the clans of Zulu tribe. His mother Nandi was the daughter of the rival clan chief Mbhengi. According to Zulu believes Shaka’s birth was a sin because his parents did not belong to the same clans.

Because of the distress from tribal leaders, Shaka’s parents split, Shaka and his mother ran away from the clan of his father. Shaka’s mother came back to Elangeni where she had been shunned. Her son Shaka was often insulted, bullied and disregarded.

Picture: Shaka Zulu statue

When Shaka grew up, the members of the Elangeni clan remembered his torturing with fury. When Shaka became sufficiently a man he left the Elangeni and became a citizen of the Mthethwa clan.

Under the rule of Mthethwa’s chief Dingiswayo,Shaka operated as a six-year fighter. Dingiswayo had been overwhelmed by Shaka’s courage and perseverance. He then tayed with Mthethwa until, in 1816, when he heard about the death of his father Senzangakhona.

With Dingiswayo’s military support Shaka demanded to be given the chieftainship of his father. With the expertise of the Mthethwa, he turned the army of his clan into a powerful military capable of protection and provocation by a greater symbolic force.

In 1818, Shaka’s role model Dingiswayo was murdered by Zwide, the head of the Ndwandwe clan. Shaka sought revanchy in the Battle of Mhlatuze River in 1820, and won it with Zulu’s dominance over the Ndwandwe.

Then Shaka went to build a powerful empire for the various Zulu clans. The Zulu Empire numbered approximately 250,000, including rival groups, and its province became the largest in the history of Southern Africa.

At the height of his strength, in 1827, Shaka managed to control more than 50 thousand warriors and captured the majority of the region in the modern state of South Africa.

The actions of Shaka had become extremely strong, cruel and surreal at the same moment as authority was unified in his hands. His mother, Nandi, died at the height of his power in 1827. Anger of the death of his mother (and her) Elangeni’s care caused the death of thousands of tribal people. He nearly directly led to his mutiny in the harsh treatment of his own soldiers.

Shaka Zulu was assassinated in 1828 by Dingane and Mhlangana, his half-brothers. Dingane took over the Empire that lasted half a hundred years before the British Army eventually collapses.


A New Way to Battle with a New Weapon

Shaka decided to change the way battles were fought. Instead of hurling spears form a distance, he decided to close in on the enemy and engage in melee combat. When the opponent threw their spears, he would parry them with his shield. Then, he would charge forward, hook the enemy’s shield aside with his own, and stab the warrior to death with his light spear. To make himself a more effective warrior, Shaka discarded his cowhide sandals, as they hampered his movements.

Additionally, Shaka designed a new type of spear for combat, as the light throwing spears were rather fragile when used to strike or stab an enemy. This resulted in a spear with a massive blade attached to a stout, short handle. This was called the iklwa, a reference to the sound made when it was thrust and pulled out from a victim’s body. Shaka is also credited with refining the existing military formation into the now well-known ‘buffalo horns’ formation. This formation consisted of a ‘head’ (main body), ‘horns’ (flanking forces) and ‘loins’ (reserves).

Zulu Warrior with a iklwa spear (designed by Shaka for a bloodier battle). (1898) ( Public Domain )


Shaka Zulu and Great Man History

How do historians craft history? There is no simple or easy way to answer this question, as there is a near-infinite number of ways to interpret events in our past. However, there is a multitude of different historical perspectives that can be incredibly useful in framing how a historian views the past. One of these comes from the 19th-century historian Thomas Carlyle . Carlyle is famous (and infamous) for a number of his ideas, however, he is probably most famous for his theory of history. This is the Great Man Theory of History . This theory of history holds that most of history can be explained by the influence of great men or heroes as he terms them. They, with their cunning, superior intelligence, etc… shape the world around them to move history forward.

Needless to say, this theory of history has largely been discredited, with historians instead focusing on other theories less focused on individual rulers and thinkers, but instead on groups and systems as a whole. This seems reasonable. It does not matter how mighty or brilliant a ruler is, if the system they work in does not work or the people under them refuse to comply, then that’s all she wrote. However, there are some individuals in history that give one pause, because they seem to be the archetype for the Great Man Theory. One of these is the famous/infamous Shaka Zulu .

Born in 1787, Shaka Zulu arose from obscurity to become the overlord of his little piece of the world. This little piece of the world was the south-east of Africa, which at this point in time was composed of hundreds of different African kingdoms, clans, and tribes. Born into the rather insignificant Zulu kingdom, Shaka would soon make the name Zulu synonymous with power and resistance to colonialism.

Shaka’s real name was Sigidi kaSenzangakhona, so it should be obvious why we know him as Shaka. He was born of an apparently illicit love affair between his father Senzangakhona, chief of the Zulu, and his mother Nandi, a daughter of a Langeni chief. This affair went over like a lead balloon and after a brief sojourn in Senzangakhon’s court, Nandi was driven out. She, fortunately, found refuge with her people, the Langeni. However, Shaka would later be given to the Mthethwa chiefdom and became part of the court of their chief Dingiswayo, who welcomed this foreign boy into his court.

Shaka would make a name for himself on the battlefield in his early adulthood when he was drafted into the military of the Mthethwa tribe. Herein he discovered his latent talent for war and tactics and quickly rose up the ranks of the Mthethwa to become one of Dingiswayo’s commanders. After the death of his father, Shaka would receive permission and aid from Dingiswayo to seize the Zulu throne from his senior brother Sigujana. Shaka would achieve this goal and even carved up some more surrounding territory to add to the Zulu domain, including that of the Langeni. While his skill as a commander was proven, it still remained that Shaka was still the vassal of Dingiswayo.

This all changed around 1818 when the Mthethwa and the Ndwandwe went to war. Herein, Dingiswayo was captured by the Ndwandwe’s leader Zwide and later killed. According to some accounts, this might have been a bid on Shaka’s part to obtain the Mthethwa throne, but this is unconfirmed. What did occur is that Shaka immediately assumed control of the collapsing Mthethwa state after the death of their chief. Desiring to be rid of yet another rival, Zwide and his forces that same year invaded Shaka’s realm, but were subsequently routed, and the Ndwandwe were ultimately absorbed into the Zulu kingdom. There were no major rivals left in the area, so Shaka did what I guess a Shaka does and continued to conquer.

The result of these conquests is that the Zulu would now rule most of Natal and KwaZulu . With no major rivals, Shaka and his apparently unstoppable army would demand the submission of all of the surrounding chiefdoms. If they agreed, they were allowed to maintain local administrative control. If they did not, they were either annihilated wholesale or driven off their land. This resulted in a series of mass migrations from the region that resulted in perhaps as many as one million deaths, as entire people groups were forced from their homes and collided with other groups. The effects of these migrations were felt as far as the Zambezi River in modern-day Zimbabwe.

The Zulu Kingdom under Shaka would quickly morph into a Spartan-like military state. All young men would reside in military settlements completely separate from women until such a time as they had earned the right to marry. Unmarried women would receive much the same treatment. The cattle that the Kingdom’s economy was reliant upon were largely centralized by Shaka and his subordinates. In 1824, the British of the Cape Colony in the western part of South Africa would come into contact with the Zulu. Sensing an opportunity for trade and the potential of more and greater weapons Shaka allowed them to build Port Natal to conduct said trade.

Shaka was a cruel leader. Killing at the slightest provocation, his actions did not engender him to those around him. It is no wonder then that in 1828, a mere ten years after taking the Zulu throne, that he would be assassinated by his half-brothers and bodyguard. The system that Shaka had built was a rigid militaristic society so formidable that it would in later years go head to head with the might of the British Empire. While they would ultimately lose this engagement, the Zulu and their founder would go down in history as a symbol of African military prowess and strength.

The case of Shaka Zulu does give one pause. Here is a relative nobody (yes he was technically nobility, but that did not exactly benefit him to my mind due to his mixed blood and illegitimacy) who managed to create a military system that defeated the British for a time, who were at the height of their colonial power. Here was a guy so ruthless and frankly brilliant that he managed to transform the entirety of south-east Africa, displacing and eliminating entire people groups, all without the intervention of colonial powers. This set of events is not a common event. Yes, you will have great leaders within every group and population, but rarely one that is so transformative and, to be frank, deadly.

The reason for the mention of the lack of colonial intervention is that throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the power balance globally was affected dramatically by the presence of either Europeans themselves or by their technology, particularly weapons. New Zealand exploded in violence during the so-called Musket Wars (1807-37) between the various groups of Maori. As the name would belie, the introduction of firearms was a big component. The Comanche stampeded through most of West Texas during the late 18th century creating what some have referred to as Comanchura or the Comanche Empire . This was the result of them adopting the horse and becoming what could be quite reasonably argued the best light cavalrymen in the world at the time. Horses were not indigenous to the Americas.

Shaka did not rely on colonial intervention or really any of their technology, unlike the other examples listed. He modified existing weapons, tactics, and social structures to meet his ends. He was the revolution revolution did not come to him. Perhaps it is time to reexamine the Great Man Theory of History. Not entirely, but it at least should not be sold down the river wholesale. The individual can make a significant impact on the world around them. Perhaps it is better to try to look at history in such a way as to measure the impact individuals, no matter their status, have on history and the world around them.


The Assassination of King Shaka: Zulu History's Dramatic Moment

In this riveting new book, John Laband, pre-eminent historian of the Zulu Kingdom, tackles some of the questions that swirl around the assassination in 1828 of King Shaka, the celebrated founder of the Zulu Kingdom and war leader of legendary brilliance: Why did prominent members of the royal house conspire to kill him? Just how significant a part did the white hunter-trad

In this riveting new book, John Laband, pre-eminent historian of the Zulu Kingdom, tackles some of the questions that swirl around the assassination in 1828 of King Shaka, the celebrated founder of the Zulu Kingdom and war leader of legendary brilliance: Why did prominent members of the royal house conspire to kill him? Just how significant a part did the white hunter-traders settled at Port Natal play in their royal patron’s downfall? Why were Shaka's relations with the British Cape Colony key to his survival? And why did the powerful army he had created acquiesce so tamely in the usurpation of the throne by Dingane, his half-brother and assassin?

In his search for answers Laband turns to the Zulu voice heard through recorded oral testimony and praise-poems, and to the written accounts and reminiscences of the Port Natal trader-hunters and the despatches of Cape officials. In the course of probing and assessing this evidence the author vividly brings the early Zulu kingdom and its inhabitants to life. He throws light on this elusive character of and his own unpredictable intentions, while illuminating the fears and ambitions of those attempting to prosper and survive in his hazardous kingdom: a kingdom that nevertheless endured in all its essential characteristics, particularly militarily, until its destruction fifty one years later in 1879 by the British and whose fate, legend has it, Shaka predicted with his dying breath.


Dingane came to power in 1828 after assassinating his half-brother Shaka with the help of another brother, Umhlangana, as well as Mbopa, Shaka’s bodyguard. They were traditionally said to have killed Shaka because of his increasingly brutal behaviour after the death of his mother, Nandi. The assassination took place at present-day Stanger. [3]

Captain Gardiner related that Dingane was revered as the "great idol" of the Zulu nation, while Reverend Francis Owen, who observed his rule at close quarters while stationed at Umgungundhlovu, highlighted several aspects of his despotic governance. Dingane's subjects applied god-like attributes to him, not admitting for instance that his reign might have had a beginning. He was deemed immortal, one who was neither born, nor would ever die. When asked when his reign started, his subjects replied "hundreds and hundreds of years ago." At their morning and evening meals, after receiving the distributed meat, they rose and exclaimed with raised hands: "Thou that art greater than the heavens." [4]

The habit of Dingane's ministers, concubines and servants was not to think, act or speak, except at Dingane's suggestion or command. Owen observed that even Dingane's prime minister, Ndlela kaSompisi, refused to pay him a visit, as such a visit was not an expressly ordered by the king. [4] Nor would anyone grind him a small amount of corn, or sit down with him for prayer, as they had not been ordered to do so.

Dingane kept his 500 or so concubines in severe bondage. He referred to them as his sisters or children, and placed them in various ranks. They could leave the royal enclosure only with his permission, and when doing so were not allowed to cast an eye on any man or boy. Owen observed them a few times outside the palace, once when brought out to sing, and also when they were instructed to bring him thatch for his hut. Some would run away when the opportunity availed, only to be apprehended and executed. [4]

Dingane built his capital city of umGungundlovu in 1829 and enlarged it five years later. UmGungundlovu was built according to the characteristic layout of a Zulu military settlement (singular: ikhanda, plural: amakhanda). The ikhanda consisted of a large, central circular parade ground (isibaya esikhulu), surrounded by warriors' barracks (uhlangoti) and storage huts for their shields. [5] The isibaya was entered from the north.

The royal enclosure (isigodlo) was on the southern side of the complex, directly opposite the main entrance. The king, his mistresses and female attendants (Dingane never married officially), a total of at least 500 people, resided here. The women were divided into two groups: the black isigodlo and the white isigodlo. The black isigodlo comprised about 100 privileged women, and within that group was another elite, the bheje, a smaller number of girls favoured by the king as his mistresses. A small settlement was built for them behind the main complex, where they could enjoy some privacy. The remainder of the king's women were the white isigodlo. They were mainly girls presented to the king by his important subjects. He also selected other girls at the annual first fruit ceremony (umkhosi wokweshwama).

A huge half-moon shaped area was included in the black isigodlo here the women and the king sang and danced. The huts in the black isigodlo were divided into compartments of about three huts each, enclosed by a two-metre-high hedge of intertwined withes, which created a network of passages. [6]

The king's private hut (ilawu) was located in one such triangular compartment and had three or four entrances. [6] His hut was very large and was kept very neat by attendants it could easily accommodate 50 people. Modern archaeological excavations have revealed that the floor of this large hut was approximately 10 metres in diameter. Archaeologists found evidence inside the hut of 22 large supporting posts completely covered in glass beads. [5] These had been noted in historical accounts by Piet Retief, leader of the Voortrekkers, and the British missionaries Champion and Owen.

On the south side, just behind the main complex, were three separate enclosed groups of huts. The centre group was used by the uBheje women of the black isigodlo. In this area, they initiated chosen young girls into the service of the king.

Dingane lacked Shaka's military and leadership skills rebel chiefs broke away from his rule. Chiefs who fell out of favour with Dingane, fled the country, as chief Signabani did. [4] Those subjects of Signabani who were not able to flee with him were rounded up in their refuges and massacred. The dissension was exacerbated by armed conflict with the newly arrived Voortrekkers.

In November 1837 Dingane met with Piet Retief, leader of the Voortrekkers. In return for their recovering some stolen cattle, Dingane signed a deed of cession of lands (written in English) to the Voortrekkers. It is generally believed that Dingane knew what he was signing although he could not have had any formal education, have read the contents of the document or have understood the concept of permanent land ownership since it was not a custom of the Zulus to assign land to individuals permanently. [7] On 6 February 1838, after two days of feasting, the chief had Retief and his diplomatic party killed. [8] They had been told to leave their firearms outside the royal kraal. Suddenly, when the dancing had reached a frenzied climax, Dingane leapt to his feet and shouted Bulalani abathakathi! ("Kill [9] the wizards!") The men were totally overpowered and dragged away to the hill kwaMatiwane, named after a chief who had been killed there. Retief and his men were killed. It is alleged by some that they were killed because they withheld some of the cattle recovered from Chief Sekonyela. The general opinion is that Dingane did not wish to yield the land ceded to them in the treaty and mistrusted the presence of the Voortrekkers. [10] At the same time, Dingane's forces killed Retief's undefended trek party, about 500 Boers and native servants, including women and children. The Boers called it the Weenen massacre. The nearby present-day town of Weenen (Dutch for "weeping") was named by early settlers in memory of the massacre.

In a further act of war, Dingane ordered his army also to seek and kill the group of Voortrekkers under Andries Pretorius. The Zulu impis attacked the Voortrekker encampment, but they were defeated in the ensuing Battle of Blood River. An estimated 3,000 Zulus were killed, and three Voortrekkers were slightly wounded. Dingane's commander at the battle was Ndlela kaSompisi.

In January 1840, Pretorius and a force of 400 Boers helped Mpande in his revolt against Dingane, which resulted in the latter's overthrow and death. At the Battle of Maqongqo, many of Dingane's own men deserted to Mpande's army. Dingane had his general, Ndlela kaSompisi, executed, and with a few followers, he sought refuge in Nayawo territory on the Lubombo mountains. A group of Nyawo and Swazi assassinated him in Hlatikhulu Forest. [11]

He was succeeded as king by Mpande, who was a half-brother to both Dingane and Shaka. Dingane's grave is near Ingwavuma in the Hlatikulu Forest, an hour's drive from Tembe elephant park.

King of the Zulu Nation
Preceded by:
Shaka
Reign
1828–1840
Succeeded by:
Mpande

Sir Henry Rider Haggard's novels Nada the Lily and Marie include versions of some events in Dingane's life, as does Bertram Mitford's 1898 novel The Induna's Wife. [ citation needed ]

Dingane in ordinary and dancing dress, illustrated by Captain Gardiner

Dingane signing a treaty with Piet Retief, as depicted in the Voortrekker Monument

Bronze statue of Dingane at Maropeng, in the Long March to Freedom exhibition


The failed uprising in Puerto Rico frustrated PRNP activists. In the Bronx, two Puerto Rican nationalists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, were further angered by what they saw as excessive force by the US military to beat back the rebels. So they decided to retaliate &ndash and draw attention to their cause &ndash with an assassination of the American president.

The gutted interior of the White House during its 1950 renovation. Wikimedia

At the time, Truman was not living in the White House, which was undergoing a renovation, but in the nearby &ndash and less secure &ndash Blair House. Torresola, an experienced gunman, secured a Walther P38 pistol and a German Luger, and taught the less experienced Collazo how to load and handle them. The duo then caught a train from NYC to Washington, DC, to reconnoiter. On November 1 st , 1950, they sprang into action.


Shaka Zulu

Early Life

Shaka was born in 1787 to a Zulu chief and a Lageni princess, but he and his mother were exiled to Lageni soon after Shaka’s birth because he was born out of wedlock. Shaka had a rough childhood in Lageni. He was often mistreated by the people of Lageni because of the circumstances of his birth. When Shaka had become a man, he was drafted into the army of the Mthethwa Empire, where he served successfully for six years. Shaka gained a prominent position in the Mthethwa army, and in 1816 he was sent back to rule the Zulu tribe.

As chief of the Zulus, Shaka made major changes in the way warriors were trained, and in the way battles were fought. The first change was to the weapons the Zulus used, which in turn changed the way battles were fought. Previously, Zulu warriors used light throwing spears, and battles were mainly taunts and a few volleys of spears. These battles had few casualties, and the smaller army generally backed down quickly. Shaka equipped his men with much stronger and shorter assegais, which were short handled, long bladed spears, and with cowhide shields. These new weapons forced the men to engage in close combat, and the battles became much more serious and deadly.

Shaka also trained his men differently, taking them on fifty mile hikes to strengthen them and prepare them to fight after long marches. He created new battle formations, the most famous being his Bull Formation. In the Bull Formation, Shaka divided his men into four groups, which were separated by painting each group’s shield a different color. The four groups were the chest, two horns, and the loins. In the Bull Formation, the chest consisted of Shaka’s best men, and they engaged the enemy directly. Then the two horn groups would sweep out to either side of the enemy, and attack the flanks. Finally, Shaka had the loins group stand behind the chest group facing away from the battle. They faced away from the battle so the men would stay calm, and not get caught up in the battle too early. The loins were also designed to protect against an attack from behind, and they could be deployed to help out any section that needed reinforcements.

During his military campaigns, Shaka sought to incorporate the subdued clans into his army. This strategy allowed him to quadruple the size of his army in under a year. Within two years, Shaka had conquered almost all the tribes around him, growing the Zulus from a smaller clan into the Zulu Nation.

Shaka’s military campaign’s brought about what came to be known as “The Mfecane” or “The Crushing”. Shaka’s annual campaigns displaced millions of people as they fled Shaka’s army. These displaced people, in turn, displaced more people as the various clans had to fight for new land. The Mfecane affected people as far away as South Africa and Tanzania.

Shaka’s decline from power started with the death of his mother, Nandi. When Nandi died in 1827, Shaka had a mental breakdown. In his initial grief, he had over 7000 Zulu men and women killed. He also declared that no crops could be planted and no animals be milked for an entire year within the Zulu empire. Then for good measure, Shaka had thousands of cows killed so that even the calves can know the pain of losing a mother.

The final straw happened when Shaka sent his men on back to back campaigns with no rest in between. Fed up with Shaka’s irrational behavior, two of Shaka’s half brother’s, along with a third man, assassinated Shaka and claimed the throne. One of the assassins and Shaka’s half-brother, Dingane, assumed Shaka’s role as king and proceeded to purge the Zulu nation of Shaka supporters in order to secure his place as king, thus ending Shaka Zulu’s reign.

Czerniewski, Bill. “AUTHENTIC ZULU STABBING SPEAR AND SHIELD. … Paleolithic | Lot #48344 | Heritage Auctions.” Pinterest. N.p., 08 May 2015. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.

Harris, Collin. “Shaka Zulu Is Assassinated.” World History Project. The History of the Us, n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

McConnell, James E. “Zulu Chief Shaka Being Attacked.” Look and Learn History Picture Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.

“Mfecane.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Oct. 2016. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.

Morris, Donald R. “Shaka.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 08 Apr. 2009. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.


Watch the video: The Assassination of Shaka (May 2022).


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  5. Sayyid

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  6. Noell

    What quite good topic

  7. Nazilkree

    Check your site as infa is relevant enough for me =)



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