The Battle of Isandlwana: Britain in Shock

A lone British soldier opposing a group of approaching Zulus.
British troops defending against a much larger group of Zulu warriors at Isandlwana.
Zulus in the modern era celebrating and commemorating their warrior heritage.

As a way to expand their colonies, during the 1800s, Boers and Britons began encroaching on territory held by the Zulus. The mighty warrior kingdom, not surprisingly, then responded with violence and war, with the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879 being one of the occasions when they fought to repel the Europeans. During said battle, which was a major battle, the Zulu army, as was customary, engaged in war dances to work themselves up before the fight. Later, armed with little more than spears, they charged head on at a long line of British troops equipped with rifles and canons.

There was no question which side had the strongest weapons at the Battle of Isandlwana, and many attacking Zulus died from British bullets and cannon balls. Nevertheless, long reloading times gave the Africans a chance to get near the Brits and begin fighting man to man with their spears. In this way, the numerically superior Zulus overwhelmed their opponents and killed over a thousand British and colonial soldiers.

Britain in shock

The British commanders who inspected the battlefield after the fighting was over could not believe their eyes when they saw a thousand dead men in red army uniforms. The commanders had regarded that Zulus as under-developed savages who should be easily defeated, but clearly they had miscalculated. Instead, courage had won against modern weapons, and the British defeat sent shock waves all the way to London.

Humiliated and eager for revenge, soon after the 1879 defeat, the European superpower sent more soldiers to southern Africa and adopted a less arrogant style of warfare. In this way, in the long run, all black opposition was crushed. Nevertheless, the great warrior tradition of the Zulu nation of the 1800s remained, and can still be found in the spirits and the culture of the Zulu people today.