13 books like Zulu Rising

By Ian Knight,

Here are 13 books that Zulu Rising fans have personally recommended if you like Zulu Rising. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Washing of the Spears: A History of the Rise of the Zulu Nation under Shaka and its fall in the Zulu War of 1879

James Oliver Gump Author Of The Dust Rose Like Smoke: The Subjugation of the Zulu and the Sioux

From my list on the rise and fall of the Zulu kingdom.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor emeritus of history at the University of San Diego, and taught courses in African and South African history for over three decades. I have also written a number articles placing African topics in comparative perspective, including “A Spirit of Resistance:  Xhosa, Maori, and Sioux Responses to Western Dominance, 1840-1920” and “Unveiling the Third Force: Toward Transitional Justice in the USA and South Africa, 1973-1994,” as well as three books: The Formation of the Zulu Kingdom in South Africa and two editions of The Dust Rose Like Smoke: The Subjugation of the Zulu and the Sioux

James' book list on the rise and fall of the Zulu kingdom

James Oliver Gump Why did James love this book?

Morris’s history of the rise and fall of the Zulu kingdom remains a classic. Trained as a journalist, Morris presents a vivid, lively, and compelling narrative, tracing the rise of Shaka’s Zulu kingdom, the outbreak of war in 1879, and the tragic aftermath of civil war and national disintegration. Although more recent scholarship casts doubt on some of Morris’s assertions, his book remains the starting point for understanding the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.

By Donald R. Morris,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Washing of the Spears as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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. This definitive account of the rise of the Zulu nation under the great ruler Shaka and its fall under Cetshwayo has been acclaimed for its scholarship, its monumental range, and its spellbinding readability. The story is studded with tales of drama and heroism: the Battle of Isandhlwana, where the Zulu army wiped out the major British…


Book cover of Terrific Majesty: The Powers of Shaka Zulu and the Limits of Historical Invention

James Oliver Gump Author Of The Dust Rose Like Smoke: The Subjugation of the Zulu and the Sioux

From my list on the rise and fall of the Zulu kingdom.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor emeritus of history at the University of San Diego, and taught courses in African and South African history for over three decades. I have also written a number articles placing African topics in comparative perspective, including “A Spirit of Resistance:  Xhosa, Maori, and Sioux Responses to Western Dominance, 1840-1920” and “Unveiling the Third Force: Toward Transitional Justice in the USA and South Africa, 1973-1994,” as well as three books: The Formation of the Zulu Kingdom in South Africa and two editions of The Dust Rose Like Smoke: The Subjugation of the Zulu and the Sioux

James' book list on the rise and fall of the Zulu kingdom

James Oliver Gump Why did James love this book?

Hamilton offers a thought-provoking monograph on the persistence of Shaka as a metaphor in South African history and politics and the changing representations of the famous Zulu king over time. Hamilton argues that the image of Shaka, contrary to most post-modernist interpretations, was not simply a colonial invention. Instead, she argues that Shaka’s image gained its durability and complexity from a mix of indigenous narratives as well as colonial ones.

By Carolyn Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Terrific Majesty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since his assassination in 1828, King Shaka Zulu-founder of the powerful Zulu kingdom and leader of the army that nearly toppled British colonial rule in South Africa-has made his empire in popular imaginations throughout Africa and the West. Shaka is today the hero of Zulu nationalism, the centerpiece of Inkatha ideology, a demon of apartheid, the namesake of a South African theme park, even the subject of a major TV film.

Terrific Majesty explores the reasons for the potency of Shaka's image, examining the ways it has changed over time-from colonial legend, through Africanist idealization, to modern cultural icon. This…


Book cover of The Heretic: A Study of the Life of John William Colenso, 1814-1883

James Oliver Gump Author Of The Dust Rose Like Smoke: The Subjugation of the Zulu and the Sioux

From my list on the rise and fall of the Zulu kingdom.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor emeritus of history at the University of San Diego, and taught courses in African and South African history for over three decades. I have also written a number articles placing African topics in comparative perspective, including “A Spirit of Resistance:  Xhosa, Maori, and Sioux Responses to Western Dominance, 1840-1920” and “Unveiling the Third Force: Toward Transitional Justice in the USA and South Africa, 1973-1994,” as well as three books: The Formation of the Zulu Kingdom in South Africa and two editions of The Dust Rose Like Smoke: The Subjugation of the Zulu and the Sioux

James' book list on the rise and fall of the Zulu kingdom

James Oliver Gump Why did James love this book?

Guy, a prolific historian of Zulu history, writes the definitive biography of John William Colenso, bishop of Natal between 1852 and his death in 1883. Throughout the last decade of his life, Colenso championed the rights of Africans in Natal and Zululand and became a major critic of Britain’s pre-emptive war against the Zulu kingdom. In particular, Colenso came to regard his former friend Theophilus Shepstone (Natal’s Secretary of Native Affairs) as a principal advocate for the Anglo-Zulu War, a conflict Colenso described as “most unjustifiable and wicked.”

By Jeff Guy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Heretic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

John William Colenso died in 1883, a Mathematician and controversial missionary Bishop of Natal. During his life, he scandalized Victorians by showing that the Bible could not be accepted as the literal word of God. He was subsequently found guilty of heresy and excommunicated by the Anglican Church Undaunted by the antagonism of his contemporaries, Colenso then attempted to expose and rectify the injustices inflicted upon the Africans of Natal and Zululand by the British in the late 19th century.


Book cover of A History of South Africa

Kenneth P. Vickery Author Of The African Experience: From "Lucy" to Mandela

From my list on Southern Africa as picked by a historian.

Why am I passionate about this?

For fifty years I have studied and taught the history of Africa, which  makes me about the luckiest guy around.  My focus has been on Southern Africa, and especially Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.  Aside from the fantastic physical beauty, the region attracts because of the comparability of its history and experience with that of the United States at many points:  for instance, a colonial past, systems of slavery, and fraught [to say the least] racial dynamics.  I have enjoyed 23 journeys or lengthier sojourns in Southern Africa, and have taught at five universities, including North Carolina State, Duke, and the University of Zimbabwe as a Fulbright Lecturer.

Kenneth's book list on Southern Africa as picked by a historian

Kenneth P. Vickery Why did Kenneth love this book?

Okay, he was my dissertation advisor. Sorry! But Thompson’s is a concise, perceptive, and readable one-volume history of the great country, a splendid introduction. Born and raised in South Africa, the late Thompson was a Rhodes Scholar before seeing extensive service in World War II. Like so many talented South Africans from many fields, he went into exile around 1960 when the apartheid regime moved toward a no-holds-barred stranglehold on all opposition. This was his last book, and in it he distills a lifetime of research, teaching and experience. The fourth edition has an update and new preface by Lynn Berat.

By Leonard Thompson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A History of South Africa as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fresh and penetrating exploration of South Africa's history, from the earliest known human inhabitation of the region to the present

"I did not think it was possible for a white person to write a history of South Africa which a black South African would find to be a fair and accurate account of a beautiful land and its people. Leonard Thompson has disabused me of that notion. His is a history that is both accurate and authentic, written in a delightful literary style."-Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The Fourth Edition of this classic text brings South Africa's history up to date…


Book cover of The Rise & Fall of the Zulu Nation

Ian F.W. Beckett Author Of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift

From my list on Zulus and the Zulu War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Honorary Professor of Military History at the University of Kent, having retired from teaching there in 2015. I have held professorial chairs in both the UK and the US. Most of my books have been on the history of the British Army, including on the First World War and, especially, the late Victorian Army between 1872 and 1902. Like others of my generation, I was greatly influenced by the 1964 film Zulu with Stanley Baker and Michael Caine. The Zulu War has always fascinated me so here is my selection of the best books on Zulus and the war.   

Ian's book list on Zulus and the Zulu War

Ian F.W. Beckett Why did Ian love this book?

Originally published as Rope of Sand in South Africa in 1995, this is a brilliant overview of the story of the Zulu from the days of their rise under Shaka to the tragedy of the Bhambatha Rebellion in 1906. No one knows the Zulu sources better than John Laband, who has written extensively on the war. He weaves Zulu oral tradition and contemporary European accounts into a vivid narrative of Zulu history. Full coverage is given to the Anglo-Zulu War but what I particularly value is the wider context of the contest between Briton, Boer, and Zulu that shaped the course of South African history.     

By John Laband,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rise & Fall of the Zulu Nation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally published as "Rope of Sand" in South Africa, this account of the dramatic emergence and decline of the Zulu kingdom in the 19th century is the culmination of 15 years of research.


Book cover of The Boiling Cauldron: Utrecht District and the Anglo-Zulu War, 1879

Ian F.W. Beckett Author Of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift

From my list on Zulus and the Zulu War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Honorary Professor of Military History at the University of Kent, having retired from teaching there in 2015. I have held professorial chairs in both the UK and the US. Most of my books have been on the history of the British Army, including on the First World War and, especially, the late Victorian Army between 1872 and 1902. Like others of my generation, I was greatly influenced by the 1964 film Zulu with Stanley Baker and Michael Caine. The Zulu War has always fascinated me so here is my selection of the best books on Zulus and the war.   

Ian's book list on Zulus and the Zulu War

Ian F.W. Beckett Why did Ian love this book?

Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift have overshadowed the other battles of the war. By way of contrast, Huw Jones provides a detailed study of the British No. 4 Column commanded by Sir Evelyn Wood and its actions at Hlobane and Kambula in March 1879. Like Isandlwana, Hlobane was a disaster, which was mitigated the next day by the repulse of the main Zulu army at Kambula. The Utrecht District, from which Wood operated, was also a key area in which British, Boer, and Zulu interests clashed. Jones’s book deserves to be much better known as a fine study of the political complexities of the region in question before and during the war, as well as providing expert analysis of the military operations there.  

By Huw M. Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Boiling Cauldron as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shipped from UK, please allow 10 to 21 business days for arrival. Very Good, A very good, near fine copy in red cloth boards, gold gilt title on spine with a very good, near fine dust jacket.


Book cover of Black Soldiers of the Queen: The Natal Native Contingent in the Anglo-Zulu War

Ian F.W. Beckett Author Of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift

From my list on Zulus and the Zulu War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Honorary Professor of Military History at the University of Kent, having retired from teaching there in 2015. I have held professorial chairs in both the UK and the US. Most of my books have been on the history of the British Army, including on the First World War and, especially, the late Victorian Army between 1872 and 1902. Like others of my generation, I was greatly influenced by the 1964 film Zulu with Stanley Baker and Michael Caine. The Zulu War has always fascinated me so here is my selection of the best books on Zulus and the war.   

Ian's book list on Zulus and the Zulu War

Ian F.W. Beckett Why did Ian love this book?

Together with John Laband, the late Paul Thompson did an enormous amount to bring to light African perspectives on the war. Originally published in a limited edition in South Africa, this is a study of the Natal Native Contingent raised by the British as auxiliaries from African tribes and groups hostile to the Zulu. Poorly armed, they were blamed unjustly by contemporaries for the British defeat at Isandlwana and roundly blamed thereafter for atrocities associated with the aftermath of subsequent British victories. Thompson’s work is a valuable reminder of the often forgotten part played by Africans in the defeat of their fellow Africans by imperial forces.   

By P. S. Thompson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Black Soldiers of the Queen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Black Africans made up more than half of the British army that invaded Zululand in January of 1879 and went on to fight the storied battles of Isandlwana, Rorke's Drift, and Ulundi. The British force totaled some 16,800 men, at least 9,000 of whom were Africans. Of these a few, perhaps as many as 1,000, were dissident Zulus...The bulk of the large African component, however, was comprised of the Natal Native Contingent (NNC), men recruited from Africans resident in Natal. This is the force whose story Thompson told in a 1997 edition [and he] has produced a revised and expanded…


Book cover of Zulu With Some Guts Behind It: The Making of the Epic Movie

Ian F.W. Beckett Author Of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift

From my list on Zulus and the Zulu War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Honorary Professor of Military History at the University of Kent, having retired from teaching there in 2015. I have held professorial chairs in both the UK and the US. Most of my books have been on the history of the British Army, including on the First World War and, especially, the late Victorian Army between 1872 and 1902. Like others of my generation, I was greatly influenced by the 1964 film Zulu with Stanley Baker and Michael Caine. The Zulu War has always fascinated me so here is my selection of the best books on Zulus and the war.   

Ian's book list on Zulus and the Zulu War

Ian F.W. Beckett Why did Ian love this book?

Who could resist a full account of the making of Stanley Baker’s 1964 epic? From the genesis of the idea through the evolution of the script, production in South Africa and Britain, the premier, and the reaction to the movie, this is a must-have book for all fans of the film. Hall mined film archives and interviews with the actors and filmmakers to reconstruct the story of the film. It is copiously illustrated in colour as well as black and white with location photographs, posters, and cartoons. A particular highlight is the exploration of ‘myths, gaffes, and spoofs’.   

By Sheldon Hall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Zulu With Some Guts Behind It as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shipped from UK, please allow 10 to 21 business days for arrival. Very Good, A very good, clean and sound copy with dust jacket. Zulu: with some guts behind it: the making of the epic movie. 431 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 25 cm.. . Includes bibliographical references (p. [415]-419) and index.. .


Book cover of The Washing of the Spears: The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation

Gareth Williams Author Of Serving Shaka

From my list on Shaka, founder of the Zulu nation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I studied the history of sub-Saharan Africa at the University of Cambridge. Study revealed to me how complicated was the region and how contested the history of a place and people could be. I'm a white man with a love for southern African history. There are white Africans. The history of the continent is their history too. But the preponderance of records were created by white writers, until relatively recently, and this always threatened to obscure the Black experience, Black actions, Black history. In Shaka Zulu, I found a character who wasn't reacting, on the whole, to external actions, but forging a Black empire, a Zulu empire, as the result of internal forces and experiences. 

Gareth's book list on Shaka, founder of the Zulu nation

Gareth Williams Why did Gareth love this book?

This is a big book, thoroughly researched but accessibly written. Morris has a military background and sees things from a strategic perspective. He wrote this book at almost the same time as Ritter’s biography of Shaka but his focus was subtly different. He seeks to evaluate not just Shaka’s nation-building but what followed, most especially the Anglo-Zulu war that culminated in the destruction of the Zulu military at Isandhlwana. As such, this book serves as a perfect companion piece to Ritter’s work. I enjoyed the immersive nature of Morris’s account as it spanned most of the nineteenth century. It gives telling insights into the British Empire’s strengths and weaknesses and does the same for the Zulu state that built on Shaka’s innovations. This book helped me set Shaka’s story in a wider context and for that alone it deserves a place on this list.

By Donald R. Morris,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Washing of the Spears as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Filled with colourful characters, dramatic battles like Isandhlwana and Rorke's Drift, and an inexorable narrative momentum, this unsurpassed history details the sixty-year existence of the world's mightiest African empire,from its brutal formation and zenith under the military genius Shaka (1787-1828), through its inevitable collision with white expansionism, to its dissolution under Cetshwayo in the Zulu War of 1879.


Book cover of The Zulu Aftermath: A Nineteenth-Century Revolution in Bantu Africa

Gareth Williams Author Of Serving Shaka

From my list on Shaka, founder of the Zulu nation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I studied the history of sub-Saharan Africa at the University of Cambridge. Study revealed to me how complicated was the region and how contested the history of a place and people could be. I'm a white man with a love for southern African history. There are white Africans. The history of the continent is their history too. But the preponderance of records were created by white writers, until relatively recently, and this always threatened to obscure the Black experience, Black actions, Black history. In Shaka Zulu, I found a character who wasn't reacting, on the whole, to external actions, but forging a Black empire, a Zulu empire, as the result of internal forces and experiences. 

Gareth's book list on Shaka, founder of the Zulu nation

Gareth Williams Why did Gareth love this book?

This was a controversial book when I was studying southern African history at university. What became known as Africanist historians were challenging the ability of white researchers to write objectively about Africa. Not least, they claimed the dominant narrative was almost entirely written from a white perspective in which Black actors were portrayed as little more than pawns. Omer-Cooper took as his subject those Black Africans, most especially those occupying what we know as South Africa. But he sparked another academic controversy. He described the Mfecane, the displacement of peoples sparked by the emergence of the Zulu state. His critics, most notably Julian Cobbing rejected this view. They pointed to the growing demand for slaves, largely driven by white traders and assisted by British military forces, as the true cause of the upheavals of the period. I was thrilled to follow the exchanges between these two historians in the journal…

By J.D. Omer-Cooper,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Zulu Aftermath as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A detailed history of the 19th-century Zulu expansion in southern Africa, and the ongoing impact of that movement on the region, with chapters on the Swazi, Ngoni, Basuto, Ndebele, and more.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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