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 Shaka Zulu's Brutality Was Exaggerated, Says New Book

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littlehand

littlehand

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Shaka Zulu's Brutality Was Exaggerated, Says New Book Empty
PostSubject: Shaka Zulu's Brutality Was Exaggerated, Says New Book   Shaka Zulu's Brutality Was Exaggerated, Says New Book EmptyFri Dec 18, 2009 11:03 pm

Shaka Zulu, the 19th-century warrior king dubbed Africa's Napoleon, was not the bloodthirsty military genius of historical depiction, says new research.

His reputation for brutality was concocted by biased colonial-era white chroniclers and unreliable Zulu storytellers who turned the man into a myth.

There is scant evidence for cherished beliefs that Shaka was illegitimate, bullied as a child and that he invented a new form of warfare which allowed the Zulus to conquer swaths of southern Africa, according to Dan Wylie, an academic at South Africa's Rhodes University.

Dr Wylie described his book, Myth of Iron: Shaka in History, as an anti-biography because the material for a trustworthy biography did not exist. "There is a great deal that we do not know, and never will know," he said.

What is known is that Shaka, born into the small Zulu clan that formed part of the Nguni tribes, engaged in conflicts that killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. By the time he was assassinated by his half-brothers in 1828, on the eve of Boer and British incursions, Shaka reigned over much of present-day Zimbabwe, Swaziland and South Africa.

Shaka is often compared to Napoleon but Dr Wylie said although the African may have refined military innovations, he did not invent them. The author also doubted accounts that Shaka was illegitimate and bullied as a child, claims that some historians treated as fact. Dr Wylie detected numerous contradictions in the oral history of Zulu storytellers. Worse, the academic found that colonial-era white writers distorted and exaggerated the meagre historical record to turn Shaka into a despotic monster.

Nathaniel Isaacs, who wrote about Shaka in Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa, published in 1836, wrote to a fellow author, Henry Francis Fynn, advising him to smear Shaka and his successor, Dingane: "Make them out to be as bloodthirsty as you can and endeavour to give an estimation of the number of people they have murdered during their reign[s]." This would help sell Fynn's book and encourage British annexation of Zulu lands, which would mean a "fortune" for both authors. Dr Wylie said this had set the tone for future distortions, such as the 1980s television series Shaka Zulu, starring Henry Cele.
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tasker224

tasker224

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Shaka Zulu's Brutality Was Exaggerated, Says New Book Empty
PostSubject: Re: Shaka Zulu's Brutality Was Exaggerated, Says New Book   Shaka Zulu's Brutality Was Exaggerated, Says New Book EmptyThu Mar 07, 2013 7:39 pm

LH, can you advise as to the availability of this book? Has it been published?
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littlehand

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PostSubject: Re: Shaka Zulu's Brutality Was Exaggerated, Says New Book   Shaka Zulu's Brutality Was Exaggerated, Says New Book EmptyThu Mar 07, 2013 9:11 pm


http://www.amazon.co.uk/Myth-Iron-History-Dan-Wylie/dp/0821418483


Myth of Iron: Shaka in History (review)
Sean Redding
From: African Studies Review
Volume 50, Number 3, December 2007
pp. 162-163 | 10.1353/arw.2008.0031

"In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:
162 African Studies Review Swindell and Jeng are so fair in their treatment that one must read carefully to find the bad guys in Gambia’s long decline into dependence and poverty. Merchant capital gained the most in British Gambia through the purchase of nuts from producers for substantially less than they were sold in Europe and through the even greater profits amassed from imports (including food) and credit. Price fixing was one of the tools; chains of credit extended all the way back to institutions in Europe. The colonial government “provided a context for the operation of merchant capital, even if it did not always approve of the actions of the merchants or directly support them” (251), and the government was so intent on having both a balanced budget and a hefty contingency fund that it spent next to nothing—truly— from groundnut revenues on the health, education, and welfare of the producers or the colony’s infrastructure. As one would expect with related books on political and economic history, these two works support each other nicely. Merchants were long involved in politics, producers only recently; politicians argued over budgets based on revenues from groundnuts. Had Swindell and Jeng continued their study through the rest of the twentieth century (and this reviewer puzzles over why they stopped in 1934), one could see how Gambia’s government continued to be thoroughly integrated with its groundnut economy. Of special value for today is recognition of how the degradation of the environment, related partly to clearing land for groundnut production, makes it unlikely that Gambians will again be able to produce much from the land. This means that, sadly, no government that relies on revenues from such production will have resources for development, or will likely be able to govern effectively in this small, poor country. Donald R. Wright State University of New York Cortland, New York Dan Wylie. Myth of Iron: Shaka in History. Scottsville: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2006. Distributed by International Specialized Book Services, Portland, Ore. xviii + 615 pp. Maps. Boxes. Charts. Notes. Select Bibliography. Index. $69.95. Cloth. Dan Wylie calls Myth of Iron an “anti-biography” of Shaka because “it’s scarcely possible to write a biography of Shaka at all” (3). By this Wylie means that, despite all the historical works that discuss Shaka, there are very few undisputed facts about his personal life and actions. “Shaka” seems to exist as a collection of historical contradictions supporting the contending agendas of those who have written about him. A reader can approach Myth of Iron at two different levels: one is as a detailed discussion of various historical accounts about both Shaka and the broader region in the early 1800s; the second is as the most recent sortie in Book Reviews 163 the historiographical debate concerning the motivating forces behind the construction of the Zulu state. On the first level, Wylie has combed the collected oral histories of Zuluspeakers contained in the published James Stuart Archives for stories relating to Shaka’s childhood, his early adulthood, his rise to power, and the conduct of his rule as well as the aftermath of that rule. He has also gone through the numerous memoirs written by white traders, missionaries, officials, and adventurers who had contact with Shaka or who were living in southern Africa at the time. Wylie is sensitive to the various issues of fact and bias raised by the sources, as well as ways in which popularizers of the Shaka legend have sometimes replaced historical fact with anything, true or not, that might make the story livelier. Wylie is somewhat disingenuously shocked (shocked!) at the contradictions contained in these documents and accounts, but they are the reason that he insists that a true biography of Shaka is not possible. Despite the problems with the sources, however, he writes something that looks very much like a comprehensive."
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Shaka Zulu's Brutality Was Exaggerated, Says New Book Empty
PostSubject: Re: Shaka Zulu's Brutality Was Exaggerated, Says New Book   Shaka Zulu's Brutality Was Exaggerated, Says New Book EmptyFri Mar 08, 2013 6:07 pm

But yes LH, Shaka was a super-cool guy, it is well known ...

Except that sometimes it was a bit cheeky ...

And alas he had at least 14,000 friends also tease that him ...

Cheers

Pascal
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tasker224

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PostSubject: Re: Shaka Zulu's Brutality Was Exaggerated, Says New Book   Shaka Zulu's Brutality Was Exaggerated, Says New Book EmptySat Mar 09, 2013 1:48 pm

THanks LH, might pop it on the to read list.
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