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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'The Character and Objects of Chaka': A Reconsideration of the Making of Shaka as 'Mfecane' Motor
Author:Hamilton, Carolyn A.ISNI
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Geographic term:Southern Africa
Subjects:Zulu polity
traditional rulers
traditional polities
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
About person:Shaka king of Zululand (ca. 1787-1828)ISNI
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/182274
Abstract:An important aspect of Julian Cobbing's radical critique of the 'mfecane' as the pivotal concept of the history of southern Africa in the 19th century is the claim that the image of Shaka-as-monster was an 'alibi' invented by Europeans in the 1820s to mask their slaving activities. Reconsideration of this claim reveals that it is based on the misuse of evidence and inadequate periodization of the earliest representations of Shaka. Examination of the image of Shaka promoted by the Port Natal traders in the 1820s reveals that, with two highly specific exceptions which were not influential at the time, the traders' presentation of Shaka was that of a benign patron. It was only in 1829, after the Zulu king's death, that European representations began to include a range of 'atrocity' stories regarding Shaka. These were not invented by whites but drew on images of Shaka already in place amongst the African communities of southern Africa. These contemporary African views of Shaka and the ways in which they gave shape to the European versions are ignored by Cobbing, and this contributes to his failure to come to grips with past myth-making processes in their fullest complexity. Notes, ref.