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Indigenous resistance in the Anglo-Zulu War


Ian F. W. Beckett


The Anglo-Zulu War, one of the shortest of the Victorian (South Africa) ‘small wars’, saw the Zulus score a notable victory over the British army at Isandlwana in January 1879. This defeat resulted in the worst single day’s loss of life suffered by British troops between the battle of Waterloo in June 1815 and the opening campaigns of the Great War in August 1914. Within months, however, the traditional Zulu way of war had condemned them to tactical and strategic defeat. Their reliance upon close-quarter hand-to-hand combat even when confronted by superior British firepower cost them 6,000 dead and subjected them to a post-war political settlement that dismantled the military system that underpinned the Zulu polity, led to fragmentation, civil war and, ultimately, to British annexation in 1887.  


Anglo-Zulu, Isandlwana, Victorian Britain, Zulu

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Date Published

21 December 2023

How to Cite

Beckett, I. F. W. (2023). Indigenous resistance in the Anglo-Zulu War. Historical Encounters, 10(2), 12-21.


  • Issue Published 21 December 2023

  • Double Blind Peer Reviewed

  • Author Retains Copyright

  • Distributed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0​ License

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