Book Review: Zulu Warriors: The Battle for the South African Frontier


by John Laband

New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. Pp. xii, 344. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $40.00. ISBN: 0300180314

The “Great Zulu War” in Context

Given the great number of books on the Anglo-Zulu wars, particularly that of 1879, a new work titled Zulu Warriors might seem like more of the same, but that is not the case at all.  In his opening chapter, “The Shadow of Isandhlwana,” Prof. Laband (Laurier University), author of several books on African history, point s out that Isandhlwana and Rourke’s Drift so dominate accounts of war in South Africa that we fail to see them within the context of much wider Anglo-Boer efforts to curb the power of the indigenous peoples and expand the frontiers of “civilization” .

The “Great Anglo-Zulu War” was only one of several taking place more or less at the same time.  After some background, Laband takes us through six wars between 1876 and 1879 involving the British or the Boers and various local nations .  These include the Pedi, the Xhosa , the Zulu, and others.  Laband gives us a look at the varying military institutions of the African peoples, and rather successfully takes their perspective on the events into account .  This is particularly important because the actions of the indigenous leaders have most often been viewed through the perceptions of the British or the Boers.  Laband also reminds the reader that these wars were preliminary to the “Frist Anglo-Boer War,” which arguably shaped the history of southern Africa until well into the twentieth century.

This is an excellent work for those interested in South African military history , the military institutions of indigenous African nations, or in colonial military operations.

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close