The Anglo-Zulu War (11 January - 4 July 1879) was fought between the British and the Zulus. The conflict, triggered by various reasons, was a milestone of colonialism in the region and ended in the independence of the Zulu nation.
During the first half of the 19th century, the Zulus dominated much of southern Africa. However, they were threatened by the British, who in 1843 had succeeded the Boers as the rulers of Natal, the neighbouring kingdom of the Zulus. The Boers, also known as Afrikaners, were descendants of the Dutch settlers who had come to South Africa in the 17th century. When they emigrated north in order to avoid the new British dominions, they came into armed conflict with the Zulus and succeeded in overthrowing their leader King Dingane, who was replaced by his son Mpande. In 1840, they created the Republic of Natal and, three years later, the British took control of Natal and Zululand.
After King Mpande passed away in 1872, he was succeeded by his son Cetshwayo, who intended to resist European domination. This threatened the plans of the British Empire, which, following the passing of the British North America Act of 1867 that formed a federation in Canada, sought to achieve a confederation of states with the African Kingdoms. In 1877 the British negotiated with the Natal Boers that they disband their army and give up independence to be administered by the British crown. However, Cetshwayo refused to do so and the British began a series of actions designed to fuel tension on the frontier. After sending an ultimatum on 11 December 1878, they eventually declared war on the Zulus on January 11 1879.
The Anglo-Zulu War
Soon after the declaration of war, a force led by Lieutenant-General Lord Chelmsford invaded Zululand. The invasion force was split into three columns in order to surround the Zulus and force them into battle before capturing Ulundi, the royal capital. In the meanwhile, King Cetshwayo got his army prepared to face the British by purchasing guns. However, the Zulus were not properly trained in their use and many entered battle armed only with shields and spears.
On January 22 1879, the Zulus achieved their greatest victory of the war at the battle of Isandlwana. At this battle, over 20,000 Zulus launched a surprise attack on the British camp, leaving Chelmsford with no option but to retreat. After this defeat, several reinforcements were dispatched to South Africa from London. The British army barricaded itself in Eshowe, where it suffered a long siege until it was saved by Lord Chelmsford on April 2nd at the Battle of Gingindlovu. By the end of the month, most of Chelmsford's men had returned to Natal and he started to plan a second invasion of Zululand.
Due to the lack of military progress, the British government issued orders for Lord Chelmsford to be replaced. Aiming to redeem himself before this, Chelmsford launched another invasion at the end of May 1879, ignoring the envoys which had been sent by Cetshwayo to negotiate peace. On July 4, a force of 5,000 British soldiers and 20,000 Zulus fought in the surroundings of Ulundi. However, the Zulus stood no chance against the guns and artillery of the British and were rapidly defeated. The British were so impressed by their courage that they decided to build a memorial to the Zulus at Ulundi.
Following the Battle of Ulundi, Zululand was divided into autonomous areas and King Cetshwayo was captured and sent into exile in Cape Town. On the other side, Chelmsford received a Knight Grand Cross of Bath, largely because of Ulundi. However, he would never serve in the field again.
Due to the king’s absence, civil war ensued in Zululand. In 1883, the British tried to solve the situation by restoring Cetshwayo to the throne, but he died the following year. In 1887, following several Zulu rebellions, the British formally annexed Zululand, which became a part of Natal in 1897. In 1910, Natal joined the Union of South Africa. Nowadays, the area that was once the Zulu Kingdom is part of South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal, one of the country's nine provinces.
- anglo-zulu war
- british empire
- united kingdom
- queen victoria
- south africa