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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Ecological Change and Pre-Shakan State Formation
Author:Gump, JamesISNI
Periodical:African Economic History
Geographic term:Southern Africa
land scarcity
Zulu polity
ethnic warfare
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/3601752
Abstract:This study explores the role of ecological disequilibrium in contributing to the formation of the Zulu State in southern Africa. The author assumes that cultures can accommodate a range of ecological conditions over the expectable limits of variation, but that when these limits are exceeded, significant sociopolitical transformations can occur. The upland peoples of pre-Shakan Zululand, like the Hlubi, probably exceeded the limits of their resource ecology by the 18th century, and sought additional pastures to support their herds. To the misfortune of the Hlubi, this strategy backfired. Instead of abating their economic vulnerability, they aggravated it. In response to Hlubi incursions, lowland chiefdoms transformed themselves for better defence and productivity. These transformations blocked the uplanders' access to the more promising terrain to the east. When the Madlathule famine occurred in the early years of the 19th century, the ruling houses of the Mthethwa, Qwabe, Ndwandwe, and Ngwane made use of highly disciplined age-set regiments (amabutho) to compete for desirable ecological zones. The Hlubi had not significantly transformed their society, internalized their political conflicts, and dissolved into factions. Consequently, they were shattered during the Shakan wars. The Hlubi had ironically given rise to the means of their own destruction - the amabutho system made famous by Shaka. Ref.