Read Zulu Rising: The Epic Story of iSandlwana and Rorke's Drift by Ian Knight Online


The battle of Isandlwana was the single most destructive incident in the 150-year history of the British colonization of South Africa. In one bloody day more than 800 British troops, 500 of their allies, and at least 2,000 Zulus were killed in a staggering defeat for the British empire. The consequences of the battle echoed brutally across the following decades as BritainThe battle of Isandlwana was the single most destructive incident in the 150-year history of the British colonization of South Africa. In one bloody day more than 800 British troops, 500 of their allies, and at least 2,000 Zulus were killed in a staggering defeat for the British empire. The consequences of the battle echoed brutally across the following decades as Britain took ruthless revenge on the Zulu people. In Zulu Rising Ian Knight shows that the brutality of the battle was the result of an inevitable clash between two aggressive warrior traditions. For the first time he gives full weight to the Zulu experience and explores the reality of the fighting through the eyes of men who took part on both sides, looking into the human heart of this savage conflict. Based on new research, including previously unpublished material, Zulu oral history, and new archaeological evidence from the battlefield, this is the definitive account of a battle that has shaped the political fortunes of the Zulu people to this day....

Title : Zulu Rising: The Epic Story of iSandlwana and Rorke's Drift
Author :
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ISBN : 9780330445931
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 760 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Zulu Rising: The Epic Story of iSandlwana and Rorke's Drift Reviews

  • Matt
    2019-03-28 04:52

    On November 18, 1992, I broke my thumb and my mom bought me a copy of Donald R. Morris’s classic Zulu War history The Washing of the Spears. I know the date because my mom decided to inscribe the book, perhaps to remind me that the soccer-rugby hybrid that I played during recess at school was folly. Anyway, the inscription allows me to pinpoint the exact moment I started to fall in love with a brutal, half-forgotten, late 19th century colonial war. Morris’s book is a classic of narrative history. It is as riveting, exciting, and visceral as any novel. And it tells a story as sweeping and tragic as the continent of Africa itself. Its pages are stained with blood and dust and tears from a hundred battles. With twenty-years hindsight, I know that Spears (published in 1965) has its flaws. For one, it takes the novel-like feel a little too far, right down to the absence of footnotes or endnotes. (I do not recommend playing the “Unsupported Assertion” drinking game; it will lead to blackouts). For another, it reads a bit too much like an edition of Boy’s Own Magazine. Morris was interested in Zulu culture, explained their history and culture with an ethnographer’s care, and displayed sympathy for their plight. But he also had the heart-thumping tales of Kipling coursing his veins when he wrote this. He never misses an opportunity to trumpet the high adventures to be found in outnumbered redcoats facing endless hordes of black, spear-wielding warriors. The world has changed since 1965 and 1992. I sometimes find it hard to justify my fascination (and that’s the best word for it) with the Zulu Wars, knowing what I do about the context and the consequences: that the Zulus were victims of an unjust and inexcusable invasion; that their nation was destroyed in battle; that their nation was destroyed again in the ensuing peace; and that when the British left the mess they made, apartheid followed in its wake. When the dust settles and the pith helmets are cleared away, the adrenaline rush you get from all those battles is replaced by a guilty feeling for having experienced that rush. Ian Knight’s Zulu Risingacknowledges that tension from the outset. It is quite nearly a perfect Zulu book, combining narrative proficiency (if not flair) with prodigious research and cultural sensitivity. Zulu Rising is 21st century in tone, but never forgets why you picked up a Zulu War book in the first place: for the crazy dramatic battles. Knight, perhaps the preeminent Anglo-Zulu War scholar in the world, chooses to focus on the two most famous battles of that war: the crushing defeat of an entire battalion of British infantry; and the amazing makeshift defense of Rorke’s Drift by a small number of redcoats. Right off the bat, you notice the modern sensibility that Knight brings to the material. He has scrubbed his text of Afrikaner references that pepper most Zulu books, such as laager and kraal. He also uses more traditional spellings and place names. He also begins his book from the Zulu point of view, with a detailed recounting of the killing of a woman named MaMtshali by Mehlokazulu. MaMtshali was a Great Wife who strayed from her husband in violation of Zulu law. Knight uses the incident to explain the: [I]deological divide separating those [Zulus] on the two sides of the Mzinyathi River, the gulf which separated those who still lived under a free and independent traditional lifestyle and those who were constrained and limited by colonial authority.It’s not like this event hasn’t been covered before. But I appreciated Knight putting the Zulus in center stage of their own story. They are given names (though hard to pronounce), passions, and motivations. Their movements about the battlefield are placed in a strategic context far different from the human wave attacks you might have seen in Anglo-Zulu War movies such as Zulu and Zulu Dawn. (When you look at those latter titles, you really start to appreciate Donald Morris taking some time to think up a better title for his book). Lest I give you the impression that this is some post-modernist, politically correct screed, it is not. It is a battle history, through and through. Knight spends the bulk of this space – hundreds of pages – on the battle of Isandlwana. And for good reason. It makes the battle of the Little Big Horn (a.k.a. Custer’s Last Stand) look like the Van Trapp’s puppet show from The Sound of Music. Thousands of men went bayonet to spear on that deadly ground. When it was over, some 1,300 British and Native troops were dead, along with at least 1,000 Zulus. It was the greatest disaster to ever befall Imperial troops at the hands of indigenous foes. What makes Isandlwana so fascinating is that it is part history, part puzzle. Every British soldier on the firing lines, including the camp commander, Colonel Henry Pulleine, as well as every company officer, was killed in the battle. (Legend says that Zulu King Cetshwayo told his men to kill every man with a red coat; the only survivors were those officers wearing blue tunics). Thus, all of our written primary sources come from men who didn't have official duties during the fight, allowing them to escape when things fell apart. Consequently, we have tantalizing glimpses of how things shook out, but at the critical moment of failure, when the British firing line collapsed, we have only suppositions, surmises, theories, and precious few Zulu accounts. Half the fun of reading about a battle like this is in the detective work involved, in attempting to cull and collate sources, searching for corroborating witnesses or forensic evidence that dovetails with a frightened man’s long-ago account. Knight strikes a really good balance between straight-ahead narrative and source-analysis. I also appreciated his judicious block-quoting of primary sources. This allows the reader to see exactly what a participant recorded, rather than having that information diffused through an author’s biases and preconceptions. In a small pocket notebook William Cochrane had taken with him into the field, a printed entry for Wednesday 22 January 1879 noted that a solar eclipse would take place that day…The eclipse coincided with the peak of the battle at iSandlwana; in a stunning piece of natural symbolism, on the bloodiest day in the history of the Victorian Empire, the sun darkened. As one African folk story has it, in that moment, God closed his eyes, for he could not bear to look upon the horror that Man was inflicting upon himself.There was no dramatic reduction in the light levels, but far out at Mangeni Trooper Symons noticed a heavy stillness settle over the atmosphere. In the camp at iSandlwana, the eclipse frayed nerves already overstretched by the adrenaline rush of blood-lust and terror amid the smoke and dust. ‘Our eyes were dark,’ said uNzuzi Mandla of the uVe, ‘and we stabbed everything we came across.’ The worlds of the living and of the ancestors were entwined in a terrible embrace, and the sky seemed rent by some terrible form of umnyama; ‘the sun turned black in the middle of the battle,’ a man of the uNokhenke told Bertram Mitford in 1882. ‘We could still see it over us, or we should have thought we had been fighting till evening. Then we got into camp, and there was a great deal of smoke and firing. Afterwards the sun came out bright again.’And for hundreds of men, that hellish vortex of human rage and violence swirling in the unnatural gloom would be their last vision of the living world…With clarity and precision, Knight capably resolves many of the enduring controversies of the battle. To my mind, he puts to rest the ammunition controversy that has been swirling about Isandlwana for decades, and which has led one historian to actually recreate a period-era ammo box and then attempt to destroy it on camera. (The controversy stems from the alleged failure of the quartermasters to hand out bullets to anyone but their authorized companies; and from the alleged difficulty in breaking open the ammunition boxes). Knight also spends time clarifying the British order of battle, including the disposition of Native troops. In certain retellings of the battle, including Morris’s take in The Washing of the Spears, the British disintegration is precipitated by the retreat of Native troops in the center of the British firing line. This narrative, of course, is a not-so-subtle way of blaming black troops for the defeat of white troops at the hands of black warriors. Knight not only demolishes the lie, but he traces it back to its source, so that the interested reader can follow its genesis. After the high drama and narrow escapes of Isandlwana (the kind of Victorian-Era clusterf--k that involves a British officer attempting to rescue the Regimental flag when all is lost), the equally dramatic (in its own way) fight at Rorke’s Drift is anticlimactic.In a way, Rorke’s Drift is to Isandlwana what the Doolittle Raid was to Pearl Harbor: a relatively small event that took on massive proportions as a morale booster. At Rorke’s Drift, 150 British soldiers turned an old trading post into a sandbagged redoubt and held off 3-4,000 Zulus. The successful defense was a much needed elixir after the drubbing at Isandlwana, and resulted in the award of 11 Victoria Crosses. Unlike Isandlwana, there were many survivors capable of giving contemporary written accounts, so that there is little mystery surrounding the fight. In my opinion, this makes Rorke’s Drift inherently less interesting to study. Even so, Knight does a credible job with the battle, emphasizing the piecemeal nature of the Zulu attacks that doomed them to fail. If Zulu Rising had better maps, I would’ve found a way to give it six stars. Since it does not, five stars will have to suffice. It is nearly impossible to follow the progress of the battle of Isandlwana without a detailed visual aid; unfortunately, the five maps included here do not do enough. Obviously, this criticism is not directed at Knight, but at whichever penurious individual/entity determines map quantity/quality. Donald Morris’s The Washing of the Spears will always remain one of my favorite books, not just because of its quality, but because of who I was when I first read it. Morris introduced me to all these stories and people I’d never known before, and began a lifelong desire to learn more about them. Despite that, Knight’s Zulu Rising is ultimately the superior book.

  • happy
    2019-04-09 05:49

    In his look at the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, Mr. Knight has produced a very balanced account of the two battles. In addition to solid accounts of the actual battles, the author gives the reader a solid understanding of the reasons the war was fought and a decent recap of the history of Natal and the Zulu nation.In looking at the causes of war, Mr. Knight makes it abundantly clear that the people in charge of the English Colony of Natal wanted the war and did everything they could to engineer it and make it look like the it was the Zulus fault. The villains of the war are definitely Sir Henry Frere and Sir Theophilus Shepstone, the civilian leaders of Natal and the Cape Colony. The colonial office in London did not want a war; neither did the Zulu King Cetshwayo. Frere and Shepstone maneuvered the colony to declare a “defensive” war to protect Natal from Zulu incursions. Mr. Knight makes it clear the Zulus did everything possible to avoid the war; Cetshwayo even forbade his troops from crossing into Natal.In looking at the invasion of Zulu land, the author gives a good look at the British invasion plans and the short comings of the British commander, LTG Fredrick Thesiger – Lord Chelmsford. Chelmsford’s center column was under his personal command and parts of it fought at Isandlwana, including six companies of regular infantry, appox 450 men, from the 24th Reg’t of Foot and another 800 native irregulars and white colonial units raised from the colony of Natal. The British camp was poorly laid out for defense and was overwhelmed by a force appox 20 times their number. One thing the author brings out is that the many of the Zulu had firearms, though not the modern Martini-Henry the 24th was armed with, not just assegais, short stabbing spears, and a number of the British casualties were caused by gunshot.In his account of the battle, Mr. Knight also takes on some of the myths of the battle. (view spoiler)[One example is the British Quartermasters refusing to issue ammunition to units other than their own. He asserts that this was not a problem, by the time ammo began to be a concern; the battle had devolved into hand to hand fighting. He also looks at the myth that the ammo boxes could not be opened quickly. Again his conclusion is that this was not a problem – a sharp rap with a rifle butt would open the crate the ammo came in. (hide spoiler)]After the Battle of Isandlwana concludes with the destruction of the British camp and the death of more than 1100 of its defenders, the author looks at the defense of Rorke’s Drift. This battle was depicted in the 1964 film, Zulu starring Michael Caine in one of his first starring roles. One of the aspects of this section of the book that I found interesting is the look at the personalities of Lts Bromhead and Chard. According to Mr. Knight, they definitely are not what is portrayed in the movie. At Rorke’s Drift one company, appox 150 men, of the 24th successfully defended their station against approx 4000 Zulus and as a result 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defendersAll in all this is an excellent account of the opening of the 1879 Anglo-Zulu war. It is readable and flows well. I give this book a solid 4 stars.

  • Stephen Hayes
    2019-04-10 02:47

    This is a 700-page history book that reads like, and is as gripping as a novel. It covers the first battle of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, the battle of Isandlwana, when the British invaded Zululand, and retreated with a bloodied nose. The term "history book" needs to be qualified, of course. Many historians believe that detailed descriptions of battles are not real history. For real historians, they might say, the actual battle is not important, only the causes and the results. This book is not even about the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 as such. It is just about the opening battles, or to be strictly accurate, the opening battle, the Battle of Isandlwana. The Battle of Rorke's Drift was a mere side-show, boosted by the British war propaganda machine to divert attention from their defeat at Isandlwana. Having said that, however, Ian Knight describes the causes of the war at some length, and it is interesting to compare it with other books on the same topic. There was a flurry of books on the Anglo-Zulu War around the time of its centenary in 1879. I became interested in the topic when I learned that my great grandfather had fought in the war. My grandmother had died three years before we became seriously interested in family history, but I talked to her cousin, whose mother's birthday book had an entry for Captain Richard Wyatt Vause VC. The VC bit sounded rather unlikely to me, but I asked other members of the family, and one cousin had my great grandfather's diary of the Anglo-Zulu War. He wasn't a VC, and he wasn't a captain, but he was a Lieutenant in the Natal Native Horse, and he was one of the few on the British side who escaped alive after the Battle of Isandlwana. I'm glad he did, because if he hadn't I wouldn't be here. A second reason for my interest was that I was living in Zululand at the time of the centenary of the war, and we visited the battlefield both on the centenary itself, and for the centenary celebrations four months later. On the actual centenary there were some overweight people marching up and down wearing British redcoat uniforms, no doubt left over costumes from the filming of Zulu Dawn. At the celebrations there were some descendants of members of the Zulu army running up and down, also overweight, and quite exhausted by their exertions. I suspect their great grandfathers would have been quite amused. When I first became interested in the Anglo-Zulu War the most up-to-date account was The washing of the spears by Donald R. Morris, so I read it. Now, forty years later, Ian Knight has produced a new account, and it is quite interesting to compare them. Both are very readable accounts, and well written. In the intervening period there has been a lot of effort to collect more primary source material and make it more accessible to researchers, so Knight had access to a lot more source material than Morris did, and he quotes from it quite extensively. So Knight's book has some first-hand accounts from both sides (including excerpts from my great grandfather's diary). This makes the story come alive more, so that on reading it, one almost feels that one has been there. This also means that Knight can fill in some gaps, and answer some of the questions that could not be answered in Morris's account. Morris, for example, mentions a 12-year-old drummer boy, who was strung up by the heels and had his throat cut. Knight mentions that there were rumours of such things in the press, and stories to that effect later told by soldiers to frighten new recruits, but there was no evidence that any such thing happened, or that there was anyone younger than 17 in the British army, and the drummers were mostly middle-aged men. There may have been a few that young on the Zulu side, but they were not actually soldiers, but rather camp followers, perhaps come to help carry equipment for an older brother, and to catch a glimpse of the excitement. There are some curious differences in the accounts of the lead-up to the war. Morris and Knight emphasise different points, and each includes some things that the other omits. Morris's account, with fewer sources available, is sometimes contradictory. He appears to accept the British propaganda line that Zululand, with its large army was a threat to Natal, and that the British therefore had no choice but to invade Zululand to deal with this perceived threat, but at the same time he acknowledges that King Cetshwayo of Zululand had no hostile intentions towards Natal, and simply wanted to live in peace. Both books deal with the confederation policy of Lord Carnarvon, the British Colonial Secretary, which was the real cause of the war. Carnarvon wanted to unite the various colonies, republics and independent kingdoms of southern Africa under British rule. Both books mention that the invasion of Zululand was preceded by the British annexation of the Transvaal by the erstwhile Natal secretary for Native Affairs, Theophilus Shepstone. Knight, however, comes up with the explanation, which was new to me (or else I simply hadn't appreciated it before) that Shepstone introduced the whole confederation scheme in conversations with Carnarvon, and convinced him that it could work in South Africa as it had in Canada in 1867. Knight, however, omits all mention of James Anthony Froude, Carnarvon's spin doctor for confederation, who was sent to convince everyone of its benefits. He does mention that the Cape Colony was brought around to the idea by the simple expedient of sacking its prime minister, but omits a description of the way in which the same object was achieved in Natal, where Sir Garnet Wolseley was sent to "drown the liberties" of the colonists in sherry and champagne. In military matters, though I am no expert in such things, I think Knight gives a more accurate picture. Morris speaks of Zululand as having a large "standing army", which is not quite true. The Zulu military system at that time more closely resembled that of the Swiss, with all males of military age subject to call-up, and being called upon to attend the king at various times. They generally provided their own weapons (only the shields were government issue). It was the British empire that had a standing army, like the two battalions of the 24th regiment, who were full-time professional soldiers, armed, fed and paid by the government. That was why the British lost the battle of Isandlwana, but won the war, because a standing army has a better chance in a drawn-out campaign.Morris also, for some strange reason, plays down the fact that both sides used firearms. The blurb in the front of Morris's book emphasises this even more:In 1879, armed only with their spears, their rawhide shields, and their incredible courage, the Zulus challenged the might of Victorian England and, initially, inflicted on the British the worst defeat a modern army has ever suffered at the hands of men without guns.It is true that the British infantry were better trained in the use of firearms, and had state-of-the-art Martini-Henry rifles, which had a longer range and were more accurate than most of the guns in the Zulu army, but until the fighting got to very close quarters, most of it was by exchanges of gunfire. In hand-to-hand fighting, the British used bayonets fixed to the end of their rifles, while the Zulus used short stabbing spears. The bayonets had a longer reach, but once someone got inside that reach, it was over. [Author:Ian Knight] also makes it pretty clear that war was not the romantic and glorious affair that was pictured in contemporary Victorian paintings. It was brutal, vicious and messy. Both sides killed prisoners and unarmed civilians. Some, like George Hamilton-Browne, would probably today be described as a war criminal, and his troops seem to have behaved like Arkan's Tigers in more recent times, though Hamilton-Brown treated his own troops pretty badly. Another thing that comes out in Knight's account is the parallels between the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 and the Iraqi-American War of 2003. There was the same spin-doctoring in search of a casus belli, the same scare tactics and bogus threats (weapons of mass destruction/the Zulu plan to invade Natal). The main difference is that the Zulus fought better than the Iraqis. The centenary of the war in 1979 occurred at the height of the "revisionist" movement in South African historiography, and much of the writing at that time was of the Marxist school, in which a "rigid theoretical framework" and concentration on abstract economic forces made for dull reading. Learning that unamed people who were in a position to "extract surpluses" and actually did so in unnamed places is dead boring to read. Knight, I am glad to say, does not follow that trend. He tells the story of people and events, and his theoretical framework, if any, is less obtrusive. And the impression that I get from Knight is that, if he has told the story accurately, Theophilus Shepstone was the villain of the piece, aided by his family, whether they extracted surpluses or not. Shepstone it was who worked himself into a position where he controlled much of the lives of the black people of Natal. It was Shepstone who urged the confederation policy on Lord Carnarvon. It was Shepstone who recommended to Garnet Wolseley that Zululand be broken up into 13 statelets whose rulers fought, as a contemporary described it, like Kilkenny cats. In other words, Shepstone embodied the principle of "divde and rule" in his own person. And Shepstone's brother John "continued to dominate the Natal Native Affairs department thoughtout the 1880s, using his considerable influence to block any attempted resurgence of the Zulu royal house. As late as 1904 he provided evidence to the South African Native Affairs Commission arguing against allowing black Africans a right to vote in colonial elections (Knight 2011:692) -- an injustice that was only rectified 90 years later, in 1994.

  • Michael
    2019-04-10 02:36

    One of the best military history books that I have read, this is an outstanding history of the two best known battles of the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War – Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift. The book provides an excellent, detailed account of the campaign itself, examines the triggering events that led to the war, and places it all in the wider historical context. Ian Wright is a gifted writer he is equally adept at dramatically capturing the terror and chaos of the battlefield as dispassionately analyzing the personal and political motivations of the political and military leaders of both sides. (I especially enjoyed the sections of the book that examined the rise of the Zulu nation and the internal tensions and rivalries that greatly complicated Cetshwayo’s efforts to effectively defend Zululand.) Highly recommended.

  • Doubledf99.99
    2019-03-23 00:39

    Very interesting and well written book, in particular on the causes and the why of the war. The author goes into great detail of the two battles, the commanders and leaders, and of the Zulu Chief's and Prince's. The only bad knock I have on the book, is it's lack of footnotes.

  • Adrienne Hennessey
    2019-03-28 23:36

    I recently visited the Isandlwana & Rorke's Drift battlefields in South Africa & found all the information concerning the battles, British military involvement & catalogue of events all rather confusing. The enthusiastic Zulu who regaled us with the tales only served to heighten my bewilderment further, so to read this book was truly enlightening & insightful. I can thoroughly recommend it as I found it very informative, well written & clearly logged all the details, leaving me with a much clearer version of events.

  • L.M. Mountford
    2019-03-22 05:37

    If you're looking for a book on the rise and fall of the Zulu Nation, look no further. This is the first time i've ever actually sat down and read a non-fiction reference book, but I'm researching for a new book i'm writing and wanted to do some research. Now the title is very misleading, though about half the book is solely focused on Isandlwana, there is so much more to this work than just the two famous battles, it accounts for much of the history and Culture of the Zulus, from before Shaka to the South African union, their rise and fall so to speak. It's very well rehearsed, and reads much like a novel, however this also leads to its major flaw because although it does include many pictures of those who took part in the battles, and there are several maps, it mentions many places that are not displayed on either, so it is very hard to picture what you are reading at time. Never the less, this is still a great book.

  • Nathan
    2019-04-02 03:44

    A very long and detailed introduction to the opening phases of the Anglo Zulu War of 1879, focussing on the twin Battles of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift. Solid work that takes into account the latest investigations and findings about the former battle. Nice to see more Zulu evidence than in other books on the topic. But a huge let down in that the copious footnotes indicated through the text are not actually included. Big booboo on the part of the publisher there. Rated MA for strong battle violence. 3.5/5

  • James
    2019-04-14 04:43

    There is ample literature about Isandlewana and Rorke's Drift but I think this book is the benchmark. It is well researched and detailed yet highly readable. I read it a few weeks prior to visiting these two battlefields and doing so made it easier to visualise the events of all those years ago and relate to the events and dispositions of that fateful day. Highly recommend, without a doubt Ian Knight is the paragon of the Anglo-Zulu War

  • Jim D
    2019-03-23 03:00

    Epic history of the Anglo-Zulu war. Lots of background and detail which made it slow to read, however it was a thorough review of the battles and a good analysis of the reason for the war and the repercussions. Really needed maps though.

  • Alistair Elliot-Wilson
    2019-04-01 05:56

    A really interesting, and well-researched read. Pity the eBook version was terribly edited though.

  • Gary Cooper
    2019-03-27 02:02

    Ian Knight has written several books on the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 over the past decade, though having read my fair share of histories of the war I had not taken a serious look at any of them. I can across this, his latest work in my local bookshop on a day when I had a £20 note burning a hole in my pocket, so took the plunge and bought it. And, my verdict is that it was money well spent.The book tells the story of the rise of the Zulu kingdom and its entanglements with the expanding British Empire in South Africa, which eventually saw the nation all but destroyed in a deliberately engineered war. As most of us know, though, they did not go down without a fight and Mr Knight's book details the stories of the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift from both the British and Zulu perspectives, drawing on a large collection of memoirs, oral history and new archaeological evidence, giving a very rounded and interesting account of battles. The Zulu perspective of the war is arguably the most interesting aspect of the book, many of the individual accounts he draws on not having been seen before. The book also follows the fortunes of the advanced force that came back to find the camp at Isandlwana in ruins and amply conveys the jumpy horror of the soldiers when they realised what had happened. I found the book to be very readable and (being a serious history anorak)pretty much unputdownable and came away better informed about two battles I thought I knew very well indeed.

  • Anthony Nelson
    2019-04-02 05:32

    A fantastic story of a well-known military disaster, this book shines above other military history works by firmly grounding the story in the context of why this happened and what led up to. I'm often frustrated by books that drop us into the middle of an exciting conflict but leave me reaching for wikipedia every 20 pages or so to understand who a person is or why a particular country is involved. I've often said, if I am willing to read a 500 page book, I'm willing to read a 600 page book. Spend the time on context. Zulu Rising does that beautifully. The book focuses on the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift, but in a 700 page narrative the actual battles takes place roughly between pages 350 and 575. By the time it gets going, the setup and context have been so perfectly delivered that not only is it exciting, but you feel like you completely understand why its happening. Well done.

  • Tin Wee
    2019-04-13 07:59

    A very long book outlining how Europeans first established themselves in Africa, how the white settlers manoevered the British to invade Zululand, how the Zulus defeated the British army at iSandlwana, the gallant stand at Rorke's Drift, and the aftermath of the attack. Be warned that lead up to the climatic battles took a little more than half of the book, and can get rather convoluted in view of the many characters and personalities involved on both sides. The British emerged as eventual victors but never had the moral high ground - what the Zulu king did would rightfully in smashing the British camp in his own territory would be construed today as self defence, but back then British pride led to the sending of reinforcement which ended Zululand's independence. The account of Rorke's Drift is inspiring. I wouldn't recommend this unless you have more than a passing interest in these particular battles.

  • Bruce
    2019-03-25 23:46

    I own and have read Washing of the Spears at least twice and for me it was the classic treatment not only of the Zulu War but also of the Zulu Empire since Shaka made it so. Zulu Rising imo has replaced Washing of the Spears as the definitive work on the subject for a number of reasons. For one I think Knight tells the story a bit better so the volume almost reads like a well done historical novel without the nonsense. Second, and I think to better research since Washing of the Spears was published Knight does away with much of the mythology surrounding Isandlwana. For example, "the running out of ammo" myth popularized by the movie Zulu Dawn, "the crucified drummer boys" myth and the myth that Trooper Hookie was a malinger. Knight treats both sides with respect in a war that should never have been.

  • Martin Empson
    2019-04-17 04:39

    Ian Knight captures the prejudices and mistakes made by the colonial authorities, restores many of the forgotten aspects of the conflicts (the central role played by native forces in the British armies) and demonstrates how British policies (particularly after the defeat) helped lay the basis for many of the problems that came after. This is no sanitised account of military action, but a bloodily realistic description of the front line of Empire.Full review:

  • Cary Lackey
    2019-03-26 07:39

    One of the best books I have read in the past 5 years. A very good accounting of what was the final massacre of a "modern" army by an indigenous one (13 years after the Battle of Little Big Horn in the United States).Very fast paced, well researched, and compelling view of the Zulus and British (and South Africans): their respective motivations, backgrounds, and world views. Very highly recommended.

  • Andrew
    2019-04-15 06:32

    Very detailed rendition of the famous twin battles of Isandlwana (one of the heaviest and most embarrassing defeats in British military history) and Rorke’s Drift (arguably the most famous victory-against-all-odds in British military history) in 1879, that looks at both the British and Zulu sides. Debunks a few Hollywood myths, too.

  • Keith
    2019-04-13 03:58

    I wasn't too sure about this book when I picked it up, but decided to give it a go, having visited the sites of the battles. Am very glad I did. The book is very well put together and gives a fascinating insight into the politics of the time, the history of the area, the characters on both sides of the conflict and of the events that resulted in the battles.

  • Neil Davies
    2019-03-22 01:38

    Excellent, in-depth book covering the events leading up to and following the famous English-Zulu battles at Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift. Lots of new information and some old myths debunked. Wonderful (if long) book.

  • Mark M. DeRobertis
    2019-03-19 06:44

    Ian Knight is the king of Zulu War historians. Zulu Rising provides an extremely detailed analysis of the events that led to the Anglo-Zulu War. It focuses on iSandlwana and Rorke's Drift, but it goes far and beyond just those two engagements. Highly recommended.

  • Antony Fitzpatrick
    2019-03-27 23:56

    Terrific book, gave me an insight into the conflict that was previously undiscovered to me. Also gives a very good insight into the Zulu people as a whole and they really are a fascinatng people. Would definately reccommend to anyone interested in this field

  • Anne Cupero
    2019-04-07 00:34

    This was a wonderful story. Of course, battles are never positive, but Ian knight writes beautifully and transports you to the scene. You can feel the heat, see the rolling hills, and see the quiet glory of the Zulus. This is worth reading if you were ever interested in the British Empire.

  • Gareth Evans
    2019-03-22 23:48

    Clear history of Isandwala and Rorke's Drift. Especially valued as it gives a reasonably balanced perspective from both sides, although understandably gives more focus to the better documented British side

  • Michael Smith
    2019-04-11 07:40

    Riveting backstory to the whole Zulu predicament and the battles.

  • Serge
    2019-04-19 00:37

    Military history, superbly done. A pleasure to read.

  • Simon Mccrum
    2019-04-15 00:33

    Hugely captivating and enthralling account of the Zulu Wars with lots of new material.

  • Tim
    2019-03-21 04:44

    Really enjoyed this book, telling the true story of Zulu Dawn and Zulu the 2 movies based on what happened in Africa to the Zulu nation, a great read for history or movie buffs