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Zulu Wars

Battle of Isandlwana
Battle of Isandlwana
The Anglo-Zulu War was fought in 1879 between the British Colonial Empire and the Zulu Kingdom

Following a campaign by which Lord Carnarvon had successfully brought about federation in Canada, it was thought that similar combined military and political campaigns might succeed with the other African kingdoms, tribal areas and Boer republics in South Africa. In 1874, Sir Henry Bartle Frere was sent to South Africa as High Commissioner for the British Empire to bring such plans into being.

Among the obstacles were the presence of the independent states of the South African Republic and the Kingdom of Zululand and its army. Frere, on his own initiative, without the approval of the British government and with the intent of instigating a war with the Zulu, had presented an ultimatum on 11 December 1878, to the Zulu king Cetshwayo with which the Zulu king could not comply. 


Cetshwayo did not comply and Bartle Frere sent Lord Chelmsford to invade Zululand. The war is notable for several particularly bloody battles, including a stunning opening victory by the Zulu at Isandlwana, as well as for being a landmark in the timeline of imperialism in the region. The war eventually resulted in a British victory and the end of the Zulu nation's independence.


By 1877, Sir Theophilus Shepstone, the British Secretary for Native Affairs in Natal, annexed the Transvaal Republic for Britain using a special warrant. The Transvaal Boers objected but as long as the Zulu threat remained, found themselves between two threats; they feared that if they took up arms to resist the British annexation actively, King Cetshwayo and the Zulus would take the opportunity to attack. The successive British annexations, and in particular the annexation of West Griqualand, however caused a climate of simmering unease for the Boer republics.



British Prime Minister Disraeli's Tory administration in London did not want a war with the Zulus. "The fact is," wrote Sir Michael Hicks Beach, who would replace Carnarvon as Secretary of State for the Colonies, in November 1878, "that matters in Eastern Europe and India ... wore so serious an aspect that we cannot have a Zulu war in addition to other greater and too possible troubles." However Sir Bartle Frere had already been into the Cape Colony as governor and high commissioner since 1877 with the brief of creating a Confederation of South Africa from the various British colonies, Boer Republics and native states and his plans were well advanced.

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