Nathaniel Isaacs, Descriptions of Shaka and the Zulu Military

Posted: August 12th, 2013





Nathaniel Isaacs, Descriptions of Shaka and the Zulu Military

            From the introduction of Nathaniel Isaacs’ passage, it shows that Shaka had seized and consolidated his power when it mentions that he spent some years in Kwazulu where he fought alongside his military. It shows that, for the time he was there, Shaka was already the reigning king within the Zulu kingdom. He fought alongside his military in conquering other tribes. Isaacs provides an account of his military actions that prove this fact, showing how he went to strengthen his powers by having a stronger military. Additionally, the fact that he kept espionage shows that he was seeking to consolidate his power all the time. He sought information about the tribes around him to know the strengths, including those that were independent and the tributary, as well. This allowed him to attack other tribes with ease without finding surprises or being easily discovered. In addition to the wars he engaged in, Isaacs provides the cases of executions that took place as a way of ensuring cooperation and warning those who questioned his rule. Isaacs may not have been able to explain about the context of the contested succession considering the discreteness emphasized by Shaka. Even his chiefs did not know where the next action would be until the eve of the war.

In several of the passages considering the audience this account was meant for, a lot of exaggeration can be identified. The first one can be found in the passage that he describes the eve of going to war, “in which he (Shaka) seemed to indulge with as much savage delight as the tiger with its prey,” (Isaacs 208). He goes further to describe with as much exaggeration the reaction in his eyes, limbs and the whole of his body, suggesting that it seemed pleasurable. This would only mean that he was happy to kill some of his people even without genuine reason considering one does not require reason to engage in pleasurable activities. He further describes him as a giant that got no reason, a being in a human form, and a monster as well amongst other inhuman descriptions with too much emphasis.

Another exaggeration is in the emphasis of his discreteness where even the next chief to him in line did not know where the war might take place. This means that they are informed a night before the action. In these eves, the warriors are supposed to know the route and the plan laid by Shaka himself. This also means the plan of attack is made by one person who has not even seen the place itself but relies on information gathered by spies (Isaacs 210). This is some bit of an exaggeration to emphasize on the discreteness of Shaka in his warfare. Further, an exaggeration is shown where he describes Shaka as a soul that is engrossed by war and does not allow any interaction with the Europeans. This is exaggerated considering that Isaacs was a European but earned a chance to fight along Shaka’s military. Probably this was meant to evoke some reaction from the British, who might have had an interest in the area.

According to Isaacs, the area was not frequented, but he saw a Portuguese in the area captured by Shaka. This means that, despite the area being unfrequented, there were Europeans arriving in the area. Additionally, he had come to search for some British sailors who were in a shipwreck. This shows that there were people visiting the area on their ways to other parts of the world. The fact that Shaka knew something about the outside world showed there had been visitors within that area in previous years. Suggesting the region was wild, he probably meant it was not developed but obviously had its people.


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