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DateOriginal Topic
25th January 2005Who is Saul David ?
By Coll
On viewing previous topics and also comments made on recent discussions, this name keeps appearing.

Could someone tell me who this man is ?.

Is he a historian, or a storyteller or whatever, because he seems to have an alternative opinion to what happened at Isandlwana, that differs from just about every other source on the subject.

Does he have proof of the events he describes, or is he just concentrating on what might have happened in a more exaggerated fashion, to appeal as a story rather than as a true event ?.

Whatever it is, it seems he is contorting the real events into something totally different.

Out of curiosity, could someone tell me the names of the books he has written about Isandlwana and are they still available, if so, where can I obtain them so as I can see for myself ?.


25th January 2005Martin Everett
Dear Coll,
I am not sure why you do not use the Internet.
Saul David's book is available on the 'shop'.
Born Monmouth 1966. Studied history at Edinbrugh and Glasgow. Doctorate 2001. His book 'The Indian Mutiny' had favourable reviews. Often used by Daily Telegraph as a book reviewer. Only 'insight' to the AZW was the BBC Timewatch programme.
25th January 2005Coll

Thanks for your reply.

I wanted to get opinions and more details from fellow enthusiasts on what they thought of the author and his books about the Zulu War, especially Isandlwana.

It is only today that I have considered obtaining any titles by Saul David, but I posted this question earlier to hopefully receive a few replies before I pursued it any further.

25th January 2005John Young

To add to Martin's comments. Saul David has touched on the Anglo-Zulu War prior to his error-ridden work 'Zulu...', it was in his work 'Great Military Blunders'.

Personally the biggest blunder he made was to write 'Zulu...'

John Y.
25th January 2005Julian whybra
Saul David is a historian but has no expertise/research background into the AZW.
He does come from Monmouthshire I understand and feels that the AZW is part of his heritage. Strange? I was born in Middlesex and feel it is part of mine too. Re John's comment on Great Military Blunders, you'll find a fair few errors in that too.
25th January 2005Coll
John and Julian

Thanks for your replies.

It is apparent that he really is putting a spanner-in-the-works of our continuing pursuit of the truth regarding the AZW.

I always thought that before a book was published, the research and sources were fully explored, especially with historical events such as this, to prevent a title being released full of mishmash and hearsay.

I've changed my thinking considerably.

26th January 2005Derek C
To chime in here, I'm part way through Saul David's book and I find it very interesting. I would be naive to believe that it contains no innaccuracies (which history book is absolute gospel on the Anglo Zulu war?) It may well contain more errors than other books written about the subject, who knows?

What I do like about the book is that, for arguments sake, it gives 2 versions of Lt. Higginson's ride to safety from Fugitive's Drift. He doesn't plug one over the other. It also has a pretty comprehensive bibliographgy at the end, as do most books of this nature.

While I'm new to this particular era of history, apart from rudementry schooling, I personally find this topic facinating. There are so many versions of what actually took place. Just as in modern day times, you can have 2 people witness the same event, yet come up with different accounts.

To say that, for eg., that there was no soldier holed up in a cave at Isandlwana (and reportedly was one of the last to die) is in my opinion, arrogant at best. Does it really matter? Was it possible ....yes. What "absolute" proof do you have? This is the beauty of history. Unless one provides hard proof that this did not hapen, surely it's a possibility? Rattray senior & Bunting spoke to warriors of that battle and came away with that story. Who was the last Anglo survivor that observed the carnage? One has to, for accuracy, then rely on the victors' (the Zulus'). To the best of my very limited knowlege, that's the story as the Zulus' told it.

26th January 2005Tony Jones
A look on any book website will reveal a common thread throughout the the list of books available from this author,namely taking a contrary stance to the established facts and presenting them for inspection and debate.One of the easiest jobs in the world is to be a critic,you can say what you like from your own 'viewpoint' and present that viewpoint for discussion.It is much harder to research your facts in depth and present them with precision and accuracy.Perhaps one day,there will be a book,great literary blunders to complete the range when it has gone full circle.
26th January 2005Coll
Derek and Tony

Thanks for your replies.

This is why I posted this question asking about the man and his books.

Saul David is an author I have never encountered before and wanted some views on what his approach was to the Zulu War.

I can't criticise a man or his book until I read it for myself, but it does concern me when a true story may be getting altered, even just a little, when so many AZW experts are concentrating on getting the facts right and being able to source their material before getting it published, from doing thorough research in archives , etc., connected to this campaign.

The trouble is, if a person is new to finding out about this campaign and purchases a book which alters the truth, they might look upon this first book as their 'bible' of the AZW and not be able to even consider other titles being right, no matter how much proof there is on what really happened.

There was a saying ' When legend becomes fact, print the legend ', but I disagree.

I would change it to ' When facts become legends, print the facts'.

Knowing the truth about events with this or any other subject is always the best.

26th January 2005Paul Cubbin
I've always seen the job of an historian as to record events. If the events are in doubt then accounts or evidence should be presented without prejudice. An historian who presents only evidence that supports his/her own particular 'favourite' and ignores the rest is akin to a bent lawyer (I'm sure there are other kinds).
26th January 2005Peter Ewart

I think the main criticisms of the book are:

(a) Hurried, shoddy or non-existent research, as a result of relying on a large number of secondary or long discredited sources - attention to primary sources would have helped to avoid an apparently large number of bloomers but it really shouldn't be necessary to point out to a historian such a basic tenet. Earlier plaudits for his Mutiny work now start to look a bit suspicious - how many of us are genuinely as well versed on that conflict as we are on the AZW? Was it hailed by genuine authorities on the Mutiny?

(b) the succumbing to the temptation - and/or allowing to become persuaded by his publishers to - present the book in a way that claims to be ground-breaking or authoritative, or purporting to be more far-reaching than it really is - in otherwords, hype & sensationalism.

It looks as if he and the publishers have been tempted to write and publish hurriedly in an attempt to cash in on the AZW bandwagon. I don't go along with those who say all books will have errors which have to be excused. A really good one should have as few as possible and those should be excusable. If one discovers as many minor(???) errors of fact as have been suggested by researchers on this forum, what does it say for the rest of his work? Morris's work has gone through this same mill in recent years and anyone else who puts their head above the parapet on the AZW these days must simply make sure of the standard of their research before they even begin to hold forth on the reasons for this or that.

The most disgraceful move by the publishers (apart from the charges of copyright breach & virtual plagiarism) were the steps they appear to have taken to ensure favourable reviews in the national or general press from those whose knowledge of the topic was much smaller even than the author's.

Derek: - When I first saw a copy in Waterstone's the first thing I did was to look at the bibliography. I thought it was lamentable and a clear warning about its contents.
26th January 2005Julian whybra
Derek C
No-one is saying that there was no last soldier in the cave - there most definitely was, because contemporary Zulus say there was. When the popular historian begins inventing a series of events that took place in the cave however, that is a different matter.
As for inaccuracies in history books - no, that's not acceptable. Typos, all right, they happen, but no self-respecting historian (who PUBLISHES) should ever run the risk of critics being able to say "you mean you published / researched and you hadn't read xxx". There are far too many common-knowledge errors in the book to say that it had been well-researched. From a professional historian I expect professionalism.
26th January 2005Tony Jones
Coll and fellow respondants.
I mentioned elsewhere on this site,that in the junk-mail i received,the other day,the said book is now available as an 'introductory offer' for £3,from a mail order book company and that the 500 plus errors,as spotted by the real experts who contribute to this site,is a reflection of this book's 'final resting place'.
The one comment for me,that stood out on the Timewatch programme,by this author, was the selective inclusion of Sir Garnet Wolseley's comments about Chard,and other's about Bromhead attributed to:'one fellow said' without any reference to who actually said it.Someone new to AZW campaigns or seeing the programme for the first time would automatically form and opinion based on what was presented in the programme,as Joe Public isn't going to research the matter for himself.I personally found these comments disrespectful to two,great dead heroes
29th January 2005Michael Boyle
If nothing else Dr. David's book seems to have served as a 'wake up call'.At this rate his work may surpass Morris' as the most discussed on this forum!
29th January 2005Robert Jones
I agree---what about the books of Knight, Laband or Lock?
Don,t they rate a mention by the experts here?