Zulu (1964)





Director:     Cy Endfield

Starring:     Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins, Ulla Jacobson, Michael Caine, Nigel Green, James Booth

The year is 1879 in South Africa.  The Zulus have just massacred a large British force and now they intend to capture a small Swedish mission in South Africa, now serving as a British military hospital. The defending force is only a small group of British soldiers.  The very long battle takes up half the movie but the movie still holds one's attention.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

See "Shaka Zulu" for earlier period.

1828 -- Ordinance 50 ends the pass system for Khoikhoi and manumitted the slaves and gives them equal legal status with whites.

1834 -- abolition of slavery is deeply resented by the whites; frees the slaves but does not liberate them; they quickly become the slaves of institutionalized segregation and forced vassalage.

1835-37  --  mass exodus of Boers from the Cape Colony.

1838 -- Zulus attack Boers. More than 3,000 Zulus fall at the Battle of Blood River (only three Boers are slightly wounded); Boers found their Republic of Natalia.

1842 -- British annex Natalia, so the Boers trudge over the Brakensberg onto the highveld; but the British follow them and annexed the Boer Free State Republic too, proclaiming it to be the Orange River Sovereignty.

1845-1876 -- Sir Theophilus Shepstone, a British commissioner in Natal, imposes a comprehensive system of segregation on the colony. Natal is more virulently racist now than other places.

1852 and 1854 -- Britain, wanting to reduce its imperial responsibilities, agrees to the independence of the two Boer republics, the Free State and the Transvaal.

1860-1899 -- more than one hundred thousand Indians arrive in South Africa on five-year work contracts.

1870 -- discovery of diamonds on the banks of the Vaal River leads to the British taking back everything they had given to the Boers. Then gold is discovered. These are the watershed events in South African history. Overnight industrialism comes. Workers flow to the mining fields through republican territory and return with firearms.

1876-1881  --  the outbreak of a sequence of bitter conflicts with the colonial and republican armed forces, stretching along a horseshoe of frontiers from the eastern Cape through Lesotho, Zululand and the eastern Transvaal and round to Griqualand West. The most savage era of fighting in the history of South Africa.  Black chiefdoms fight a number of heroic rearguards in defense of their lands - notably those of the Phuting against Cape forces, and of the Pedi against both Boers and British in the Transvaal.

1877 -- British annex the Transvaal. Some 5,000 farmers gather at a place called Paardekraal, where they decide to go to war against Britain.  

1878  --  the British presented an ultimatum to Zulu King Cetshwayo.  When the King did not accede, the British declared war.

1879 (January 23)  --  the British Army suffered a humiliating defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana early in the day. 

1879 (January 22-23)  --  successful defense of Rorke's Drift against the Zulus; 139 British soldiers successfully defended their garrison against 4,0005,000 Zulu warriors

1879  --  Zulu power finally crushed and burned last capital at Ulundi; no black resistance left anywhere and only servitude lay ahead for them all.

1881  --  Boer victory over the British at Majuba, but British work to weaken the republic, now under the leadership of Paul Kruger, through encirclement.

1886 -- George Walker goes for a stroll and finds gold.

1890 -- Rhodes, prime minister of the Cape Colony

1900  --  Black Africans fight one another for the residue of their diminishing territory: the Ngqika-Mfengu conflict in the trans-Kei in 1874 and the Rolong and Tlhaping chiefdoms on the edge of the Kalahari. As a result, all African chiefdoms south of the Limpopo fall under white rule before 1900.


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