Myth of Iron: Shaka in History

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University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2006 - History - 615 pages
Over the decades we have heard a great deal about Shaka, the most famous - or infamous - of Zulu leaders. It may come as a surprise, therefore, that we do not know when he was born, nor what he looked like, nor precisely when or why he was assassinated. In Shaka's case, even these most basic facts of any person's biography remain locked in obscurity.
Meanwhile the public image, sometimes monstrous, sometimes heroic, juggernauts on - truly a 'myth of iron' that is so intriguing, so dramatic, so archetypal, and sometimes so politically useful, that few have subjected it to proper scrutiny.
Myth of Iron: Shaka in history is the first book-length scholarly study of Shaka to be published. It lays out, as far as possible, all the available evidence - mainly hitherto underutilised Zulu oral testimonies, supported by other documentary sources - and decides, item by item, legend by legend, what exactly we can know about Shaka's reign. The picture that emerges in this meticulously researched and absorbing 'anti-biography' is very different from the popular narrative we are used to.

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Stones from a distant grave The question of Zulu origins

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About the author (2006)

Dan Wylie teaches in the Department of English at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa.

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