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The Tribe That Washed Its Spears. By Adrian Greaves
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Apparently available in May 2013.

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Johnny Hamman


Joined: 11 Feb 2006
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And...??? Any takers...???

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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
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Evocative title! Perhaps Morris isn't in for a Monday-Morning-Quarterback dissing in this one as well? Or maybe the title isn't a suggestion that the new tome is a bit more respectful of that other one.

Someone we all know and respect once said to me that it's ironic that the paramount book about the AZW was written by a Yank. 'Nough said!
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The title is a strategic selling point in my view.

Anyone who studies the Zulu War, have a somewhat fond memory of Morris' TWOTS, which this new title plays on, as it rings a bell in the way it is phrased with the earlier book.

However, I also think this new title lacks imagination, so if that is how the book starts without even opening it, I don't hold out much hope for the contents.

I've been informed that it is better to have the word Zulu in the title and redcoated soldiers on the front cover.....but every time, I mean really.... Rolling Eyes

It's all about catching the eye of the customers, even if it is repetitive, feeling like you're buying the same book over and over again.

Boring !

Where's my examples like - SHIELDS, Durnford'S LAST STAND, WARRIOR STORM, A MUTUAL RESPECT, etc., etc.

Make them exciting for God's sake, before we die of blandness !
Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Saw

It gets a hammering now & again but I (yes, even I!) would readily acknowledge that it has its place in the overall pantheon.* It is usually only its treatment of the war itself and, in particular, Isandlwana, that it gets pasted for nowadays. There have been a number of good works on the rise of the Zulu empire - including before Morris's time - but his was very readable and undoubtedly a monumental effort. Much as I like parts of it, a description such as "the paramount book about the Zulu War" would not - has not - stood the test of time, I'd say. Unless paramount hints at "best-selling"?

But there's certainly no reason why a Yank should not write the best book on any aspect of British history, unlikely as it may seem at first. My favourite work of all on the approach of the Great War is Robert K. Massie's massive Dreadnought (it survives all library culls here!) and Barbara Tuchman's August 1914 is another favourite of mine among her works on British & European history. Solzhenitsyn produced one with exactly the same title and I have that too but BT's is the one I return to more. On the AZW again, Edgerton was so unlucky in being pipped at the post by Morris after working on his idea for years but, although he did later return to it and publish (and there are some oriignal thoughts in it) it does tend to "jar" a little to the British reader in ways in which Morris's does not. Not sure whether these are flaws on the part of the reader or the author!

* perhaps an unfortunate term given its mythological connotations!
P.


Last edited by Peter Ewart on Tue Mar 05, 2013 4:03 pm; edited 2 times in total
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The Zulu War is becoming so over-studied, that a few years from now, or even less, they'll start reading like TWOTS.

Going full circle so to speak.
Paul Bryant-Quinn


Joined: 14 Oct 2007
Posts: 535
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Peter Ewart wrote:
It is usually only its treatment of the war itself and, in particular, Isandlwana, that it gets pasted for nowadays.

I wonder, though, whether it isn't the commercial success of TWOTS which has drawn the historiographical ire in a way that earlier publications about the AZW haven't? Personally, I tend to think of it as more of an historical novel than academic history (recognising, of course, that Morris himself didn't claim that his book was a work of scholarship (just as well!)). One of my beefs with him is that he basically lifts ideas and even phrases wholesale from other studies and uses them in his book without acknowledging his sources. Morris was the cut-and-paste man long decades before word processing gave us that option.

Having said that, in some ways I would want to temper our judgement of Morris on the Isand[h]lwana question. He has been criticised for this in a way that, for example, C.T. Atkinson or Reginald Coupland have never been. And yet it was Coupland - a professional historian who had the training, the ability and the opportunity - who failed to analyse the sources critically, as David Jackson later did to such effect. Coupland rehashes all the tropes enshrined in earlier accounts, offering as key factors in the British defeat the so-called 'knuckle' of the troop disposition, the dearth of available ammunition and, notably, the flight of the NNC.

On that specific point, it's interesting that neither Coupland nor, to my knowledge, any previous commentator ever thought to question the factoid that the NNC was presumably expected to defend what was demonstrably the weakest point in that whole imaginary formation. Or, indeed, to question whether the 'rectangular position', where the NNC allegedly ended up, even happened. In every account up to and including TWOTS, we are presented with a bizarre scenario in which we are tacitly invited to accept that it was the failure of a small group of poorly armed African irregulars to withstand the Zulu attack which enabled the impi to break through:

[...] the natives levies blenched and fled. After them sprang the Zulus. In a moment they were through the yawning gap left open by the fugitives; and, since it lay at the corner of their rectangular position, the troops on either side of it were instantly outflanked (Zulu Battle Piece, p. 90).

So there you have it, in a nutshell. The conclusion the reader is left to draw from all of these accounts is that if the NNC had done its duty, as is expected of British soldiers, and resolutely held the key strategic point in the line (presumably by throwing stones at the advancing impi), then there would have been no 'yawning gap' and the troops would not have been 'outflanked'.

It's also useful to remember that Coupland published only a decade or so before Morris began his research; and that by the late 1950's he would have been confronted with a consistent and coherent account from respectable sources, culminating in a recently-published study by an eminent professor of history, which provided him with the narrative which he recycled, and embellished, in TWOTS.

Now I hasten to add that I don't have any particular brief for Morris, but I have always had this sense that it is, perhaps, a bit harsh to lay all the ills of the previous historiography at the door of an amateur while exonerating the Oxford professor. If Morris can be accused of failing to evaluate his sources critically, or of failing to research beyond them effectively, then exactly the same judgement can be made of the likes of Atkinson and Coupland. AZW studies had to wait for the forensic talents of David Jackson to appreciate what lay behind the carefully tailored accounts of 1879.

One thing Morris did put his finger on, however, was to what extent the transportation problems dogged Chelmsford's campaign plans: I don't remember too many studies prior to TWOTS which highlighted this issue. I could be wrong, of course.
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Paul

Been away since Thursday or would have come in before now. Firstly, your last point about Morris's treatment of the transport challenges facing Lord C. Glad you mentioned this - I nearly did last week as I do feel that this is one of the strongest elements of Morris's work. Published memoirs of participants obviously dwelt on transport difficulties & no doubt some of the accounts of the war which appeared in the 1880s did too (what book on 19th century southerm Africa couldn't?) but I agree than Morris's emphasis (a whole I chapter I believe) on this part of Lord C's preparations is excellent.

Not sure the "historiographical ire" is due to any envy of commercial success. Could be, but perhaps it is merely frustration that TWOTS may still be one of the first works someone new to the topic will come across, leading to false assumptions which take ages to remove. Some major contributors of modern times have praised his work & diplomatically acknowledged that subsequent research has moved things on a bit. I agree that he will have relied on Coupland as the most recent & reliable publication on Isandlwana - as it should have been. Ignoring Furneaux (1963) I haven't re-read Binns for a while but it'll be worth seeing if he also followed Coupland closely, also in 1963. Clements & French were both available to Coupland & Morris & were relatively recent works. I still haven't got French but understand it relies heavily on Gossett's heavy weeding of Lord C's papers? The work it followed, Clements, is a faily typical European-colonist approach with some interesting local flavour (Nottingham Road author) but quite disappointing in places.

Morris was his own worst enemy in producing such a massive work but then refusing to call it scholarly (or at least academic) and clearly using that excuse to refuse to lead his readers to his sources, other than in his bibliographical essay. It is not only infuriating but has led, over the years, to many of his "sources" being unravelled or dismissed one by one. Sadly, there is a lot of the historical novel in it, if not quite so absurdly as Ritter's.

Between the whole period 1879-2013, it seems that Jackson's effort was the single most helpful pointer to our understanding of the battle. So much published since then follows from his original work.

Peter
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Paul Bryant-Quinn


Joined: 14 Oct 2007
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Peter,

Fair points, all. I think I mentioned on another thread that one of Morris's biggest problems was that he tried to do too much; and let's not forget that he did at least attempt to provide some sort of a coherent narrative history of the Zulu nation from pre-Shakan days until annexation. Prior to 1963, who had done that? Small wonder (although no excuse) that he cut corners; and of course, historiography has moved on since his day.

Mind you, if you think Morris is bad, you should have seen a recently-published book about Wales and Welsh history which I perused the other day. Naturally, I turned to 'Z' in the index. And there, in all its glory, was a small entry on the battle of Rorke's Drift, in which the reader is told that the 24th Regiment of Foot (South Wales Borderers) - a Welsh regiment - held off the attack of a Zulu impi for a day and a night; that at the climactic point of the battle the stalwart defenders of the mission station sang 'Men of Harlech' to counter the fierce war-chants of the impi; and that on the morning of the 23rd the warriors sang a song honouring the bravery of their foes before gallantly withdrawing.

I kid you not.

Shocked
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
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Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Paul

Only J.Y. Gibson as far as I can see, and that's it. His The Story of the Zulus is, I think, not too bad an effort for the time (1911). In over 300 pages he traces the Zulu nation from pre-Shakan days to Dinuzulu's arrest & exile in 1888. Strangely, he omits the Bambatha affair but I have a feeling he was in England by then, so was no longer on the spot. Of course, it's very much an account of an African nation by a European, but a European who lived and worked among them for some years. A contemporary of James Stuart, he sought out their oral histories in the same fashion but principally with this book in mind.

Although 1911 always seems to be given as the publication date for this work (and my copy was published then) it is described as "new, revised & extended" and his preface to the "new edition" is dated "London, August 1911." He describes the earlier effort and its reception but no date is given. I suspect it may have appeared firstly in S Africa. Anyone know? Anyone got the earlier version? It includes a genealogical table of the Zulu royal house, with the usual 8 generations before Senzangakona and the descent of several lines from Jama, all of Mpande's sons, etc etc. It's a bit of a dog's dinner in layout but it isn't easy to set out Zulu pedigrees via several wives, and I do sometimes look at this pedigree for quick reference.

Brian Roberts - The Zulu Kings - covered much the same ground in 1974 and Stephen Turner does the same in Shaka's Children (1994, taking us from pre-Shaka to the 1980s) but each of these works of around 400 pages came after Morris. Laband tops them all of course (as he should) but again only after Morris.

Hopefully that isn't a "serious" book on Wales???

P.

P.S. I seem to remember a TV version of HGWMV with Stanley Baker before he died.
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Paul Bryant-Quinn


Joined: 14 Oct 2007
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Peter

Yes; I spoke out of turn - should have remembered Gibson. Having said that, The Story of the Zulus didn't exactly break records for sales.


Last edited by Paul Bryant-Quinn on Tue Mar 12, 2013 8:28 am; edited 1 time in total
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
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Just checked COPAC - first published PMB, 1903.

P.
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Keith Smith


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 540
Location: Northern NSW, Australia
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PE/PBQ

I'm sure the secret of the success of TWOTS is that it is such a damned good read, something I'm sure few will deny. Part of the reason for its readability is its confident assurance, despite the lack of quoted sources. I'm afraid that such an omission allowed the many errors that have been identified since its publication, which would otherwise have been identified more quickly.

I also believe that few would deny that, despite its imperfections, it is a monumental work which still remains in print after nearly fifty years. And it is still a jolly good read.

KIS
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Rusteze


Joined: 05 Oct 2009
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Location: Hampshire UK
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TWOTS is undoubtedly still a jolly good read. My copy is ex MOD (Central and Army) Library, Old War Office Building, Whitehall. Their accession date stamp is 6 June 1966, so they had it new from first publication. Wonder if they have read anything since!

Steve

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peterw


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
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I also believe that few would deny that, despite its imperfections, it is a monumental work which still remains in print after nearly fifty years. And it is still a jolly good read.

I concur. Rather like the film, it was a first step on a path to better understanding the period.

Peter
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The Tribe That Washed Its Spears. By Adrian Greaves
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