A British Lion in Zululand by William Wright
|A British Lion in Zululand by William Wright|
|Reviewer: Andy Heath|
|Summary: 'A British Lion in Zululand' captures a key time in the Victorian colonial history of South Africa. It is also the story of how one man influenced the shape of it for better or worse. With substantial new research, it adds a valuable chapter to the story of southern Africa and the forces that shaped its destiny.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 420||Date: January 2017|
|Publisher: Amberley Publishing|
During the reign of Queen Victoria, southern Africa was a land of opportunity. Fame and fortune was to be found for any brave soul willing to suffer the hardships and dangers the lands offered. For the government of Britain it was also the source of major headaches. The balance between abundant wealth and a native population that would not accept colonial rule created constant conflict. 'A British Lion in Zululand' is the story of the man, widely regarded, as the person who drew these conflicts with the Zulu tribe to a conclusion. Field Marshall Garnet Joseph Wolseley was a heroic and larger than life figure in Victorian Britain; however, even today his role in shaping the future of a continent is controversial. With the aid of extensive research from a number of new sources, William Wright has defined the man and brought fresh insight to a neglected area of British colonial history.
In 1879, eleven days after the invasion of Zululand the British army suffered a catastrophic defeat at Isandlwana. Despite a very small victory at Rorkes Drift the next day, a victory that is defined by Stanley Baker and Michael Caine in the film Zulu. The Disraeli government was in a state of panic. The British army was considered the best fighting force in the world. However, a native army armed with spears and shields had defeated the very cornerstone of the empire. Field Marshall Wolseley was ordered to salvage British pride. William Wright picks up the narrative and through private letters, papers and anecdotes describes the twelve months that led to the capture of the two most important tribal chiefs, Cetshwayo and Sekukuni. Wolseley is portrayed as a charismatic showman. Highly decorated he was a brilliant military strategist. However, the settlement at the end of the conflict remains shrouded in controversy. As you read, you will either warm to him or recoil in horror. He was never a man for the middle ground. Whatever your opinion you will be captivated as the events unfold.
History is never presented to us as the definitive finished article. In many cases, it is told from the standpoint of the winner. As a result, our view is often clouded and shaped, as the participants would like events to be remembered. Even the winner's view can have significant detail and testimony missed, even when an honest and truthful account was the desired outcome. It is only by having a total picture that the true significance of the events of the past can be evaluated. 'A British Lion in Zululand' shines more light onto our picture of colonial rule. At times, it is a harsh view but its contribution is important. There is plenty here for everyone. For the general reader it is a fast-paced narrative of adventure in the far-flung corner of the empire. The historian will also find new research that develops the events in South Africa with fantastic detail. It is a testimony to the skill of William Wright that his book will satisfy such a diverse readership. It will become a necessity on the shelf of anyone interested in the way our modern world was shaped.
If you enjoy A British Lion in Zululand, you may also enjoy Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British by Jeremy Paxman, The Beauty of Her Age: A Tale of Sex, Scandal and Money in Victorian England by Jenifer Roberts, Blood River by Tim Butcher and Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?: Missionaries, Journalists, Explorers and Empire by Claire Pettitt. You might also enjoy Mapping the Past: A Search for Five Brothers at the Edge of Empire by Charles Drazin.
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You can read more book reviews or buy A British Lion in Zululand by William Wright at Amazon.com.
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