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DateOriginal Topic
20th December 2004British Presence in Southern Africa
By Adrian Wedgewood
Just how important was the Southern African region to the UK and its economic well being at the time of the AZW? My belief is that the original presence on the Cape was to guard the trade route to India (a far more lucrative colony). But by the tme of the invasion of Zululand the Suez Canal was open so was Southern Africa paying its way (ie in terms of troops and administrators stationed there?) if not why invade Zululand? ie why seek to protect Natal. On a lighter note can anyone with experience of Africa confirm whether it is normal in Nigeria to cook stew with fisheads in it? They guy in my shared kitchen (University hall of residence) is constantly eating this foul concoction.

20th December 2004Paul Cubbin
As far as I can make out from the information available, Britain had no interest in Zululand whatsoever. They were dragged into war unwillingly by Bartle Frere, the High Commissioner, who deliberately instigated a war that he regarded as inevitable. Disraeli had time and again specifically forbidden aggressive action. Natal appeared to be something of an awkward embarrassment to an Empire that was already trying to reduce its territories as they were just too expensive to maintain. With any communications to and from London taking months, the war was already in full swing before the government knew about it. As far as economy goes, Southern Africa was a drain on an already strained treasury that was still trying to cope with the aftermath of the Crimea, the Indian Mutiny and continual border crises, especially in Afghanistan. The public were barely aware that Natal and Zululand even existed before the Isandlwana tragedy and (at the time) the much more important loss of Louis, the last of the line of Napoleon.
20th December 2004Paul Cubbin
Just to add to my posting above. It is true that gold, coal and especially diamonds began to be found in Southern Africa half way through the 19th century. Britain was very cautious to annex any territories as it inevitably weighed with a heavy responsibility, both financial and moral (morality was extremely important in Victorian britain). No-one knew how big the strikes, or how safe the claims of mine ownership were. Wherever possible the coastal territories appeared to be snapped up if they included a viable port. This meant that taxation could be collected on anything that wanted to be traded with the rest of the world. Unfortunately the inability of the successive Zulu heads of state to understand European business (fairly understandable I think you'll agree) as well as the greedy nature of the early pioneers and 'advisors' meant that land ownership was decidedly dodgy and often claimed by several would-be owners. It was actually the Zulu nation who appealed to the Crown to intervene as they couldn't keep track of the various petitions and squabbles and were wary of taking armed action against Imperial subjects.
30th December 2004Tait
Wasn't it diamonds and other precious metals that helped to ignite the Second and more well known Boer War between the Boer Republics and the British?