Good morning, today we are going to explore the Zulu Kingdom. This series was part of the Lost Kingdoms of Africa series and comes from the second series. This series is led by Gus Casely-Hayford.
In Eastern South Africa, there was a battle. It was where the British army was humiliated. The British had the latest in war-making technology and they were defeated by an army armed with spears and old muskets. They were brought down by the Zulu empire. Gus Casely-Hayford explores the people beyond that story. The Zulu were a peaceful people, more interested in raising cattle than war. How did the Zulu rise to power?
The Zulu were people who raised cattle. That changed with trade. However, trading led to trouble. The Dutch, British, and Portuguese traded in South Africa. Trading started in the 16th Century and continued well into the 18th Century. Rival ethnic groups started to vie for attention. This led to clashes. Smaller chiefdoms started to shrink. They were fighting for control and access to the water routes. However, out of the turmoil, a leader emerged from the Zulu people.
Shaka was his name. He was a leader. He was the founder of the Zulu nation. He transformed the Zulu chiefdom into a kingdom and a large military force. It took only twelve years for the Zulu to change. Unfortunately, there are no good records available about Shaka. Myths have grown up around the man. He is seen as a romantic person. Others he is a brutal dictator. Gus has to get second-hand knowledge of Shaka. Shaka was raised in a neighboring chiefdom. He learned how to rule and to be a soldier. When he returned to the Zulu people he became chief. In becoming chief, he transformed the lives of his people.
What was true behind Shaka’s efforts? Did Shaka rule with fear? Were the people scared of him? Was he a benevolent ruler? There seemed to be a mixture of people’s reactions to Shaka. Gus meets with a descendant of Shaka himself to talk about his ancestor. Shaka united the people and create the Zulu identity. Today, Shaka is known as a protector and defender of the people.
Today, a small regiment performs on ceremonial occasions. Shaka built his army through conscription. The young men were separated from Zulu society, cementing loyalty to the Zulu king. Each regiment had a name and a leader. By creating an army, Shaka was able to unite the Zulu nation. Even the Zulu weaponry was changed. Shaka favored a short spear. If you lost your spear, you were known as a coward. If you lost your spear, you would be executed and left for the vultures. Gus throws himself into learning how to fight with the spears.
The Zulu were transformed from cattle-herding people into a militarized people. With the military, he was able to turn his small chiefdom into a kingdom. Gus explores this period of conquest and incorporation. The people who were conquered had a choice: join or be exiled. So what happened to these people? Tune into this documentary to find out more about the Zulu people and Shaka.
Gus Casely-Hayford continues to explore the lost kingdoms of Africa. His episode on the Zulu was a fascinating look at this people, particularly its leader Shaka. Gus is an excellent narrator for this series and dives deep into the history of Shaka. I would have liked to have learned more about the Zulu before Shaka, but I understand that Shaka looms large over Zulu History. This would be a good documentary to show in a history class or for an independent study student.
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