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Zulu [Hardcover]

Saul David
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

30 Sep 2004
This was the most controversial and brutal British imperial conflict of the nineteenth century. The real story of the Anglo-Zulu war was one of deception, dishonour, incompetence and dereliction of duty by Lord Chelmsford who invaded Zululand without the knowledge of the British Government. But it did not go to plan and there were many political repercussions. Using new material from archives in Britain and South Africa, Saul David blows the lid on this most sordid of imperial wars and comes to a number of startling new conclusions.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (30 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670914746
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670914746
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 16 x 5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 119,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Saul David is Professor of War Studies at the University of Buckingham and the author of several critically-acclaimed history books, including The Indian Mutiny: 1857 (shortlisted for the Westminster Medal for Military Literature), Zulu: The Heroism and Tragedy of the Zulu War of 1879 (a Waterstone's Military History Book of the Year) and, most recently, Victoria's Wars: The Rise of Empire.

Saul David also writes acclaimed historical fiction. Zulu Hart, the first in the George Hart series, was a bestseller in 2009, and the sequel, Hart of Empire, will be published in August 2010.

An experienced broadcaster, Saul David has presented and appeared in history programmes for all the major TV channels and is a regular contributor to Radio 4.

Visit Saul's website at www.sauldavid.co.uk.

Product Description


'David’s brilliant, magisterial account must now be regarded as the definitive history. In scholarship, professionalism, insight... it towers above Morris.' -- Frank McLynn, Literary Review

‘Must supersede Donald Morris’s bestseller The Washing of the Spears.’ -- Allan Massie, Daily Telegraph

‘Riveting… Saul David has provided another fine revisionist account of one of Queen Victoria’s short but vicious wars.’ -- Andrew Roberts, Sunday Telegraph

‘Saul David…tells the story of the Zulu War with characteristic verve and dashes of Hentyesque brio.’ -- Lawrence James, The Times

‘[A] fascinating tale of cowardice, perfidy, hubris, idiocy and occasional heroism – told with considerable panache’ -- Gerard de Groot, Scotland on Sunday

About the Author

Saul David is an author and broadcaster. He was born in 1966 and educated at Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities, receiving his history doctorate in 2001. He is the author of six previous books including Mutiny at Salerno: An Injustice Exposed (made into a BBC Timewatch documentary), and The Indian Mutiny (Viking 2002). He is now presenting 'Great Escapes' series to be screened on Channel Five, appeared as an 'expert' on the BBC2 virtual battle series Time Commanders and was consultant for the BBC's 'Zulu: The True Story' (2003).

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
By Kentspur VINE VOICE
It is almost a rite of passage for men of a certain age to have seen - and fallen in love with (in a manly way) - the film 'Zulu' with Stanley Baker and, of course, Michael Caine.

Such men can be spotted by their occassional use of phrases like 'sixty, I think we got sixty' or 'hold them, hold them!' etc etc. Fascination with the Zulu War bites early and holds on. When I was a kid, the classic was 'The Washing of the Spears' by Donald Morris - a book I have bought and given away three times. Now, in all good bookshops, it's Saul David's work.

As a long-standing Zulu War reader, I think it's pretty jolly good. He doesn't spend too much time in tortuous descriptions of Zulu life prior to the war - as some writers have done - and cuts to the heart of Lord Chelmsford's perfidy (in the blaming of Durnford for the Isandlwana dsiaster) more effectively than any book I've read. For David, there is no real 'mystery' as to who was primarily at fault at Isandlwana; it was Lord Chelmsford. The slimy set-up of the dead Colonel - led by Chelmsford's odious 'aide de camp' Colonel Crealock - is well-described with fluent indignation.

Chelmsford's failures after the Isandlwana catastrophe are also made revealingly clear. His abandonment of his own line of communication so he could not be superseded by his replacement Garnet Wolseley and his indecent haste to clear the site of the final battle at Ulundi so there could be no humliating reverse speak volumes about the fundamental 'rotter-ness' of the man.

David's book is not perfect. I have just finished 'Red Sabbath' by Robert Kershaw on Custer's Last Stand and the military precision and insight Kershaw brings to that colonial disaster would be well applied to Isandlwana.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent history, compulsive reading 24 Oct 2005
I bought this book because the Zulu War has long interested me (and there's very little out there about it), and also because I recognised the author from BBC's Time Commanders(!)
If you try to find out about the Zulu War from other sources, there is a lot written about Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift but practically nothing about what happened before or after. Saul David's book is therefore an extremely valuable contribution as it gives this in a thorough but digestible way.
The build up to the war is explained, in terms of the political and career machinations of several key individuals. At times it's difficult to keep track of everyone who was involved. The invasion plan is explained, and the narrative moves seamlessly from preparation, to execution, to disaster, to blame. A number of little-reported episodes are expanded on in a fascinating way.
The mid-to-end section seems to go at a much faster pace and it feels a little like Saul David was in a hurry to finish this book. The aftermath gets a very short summary and I was thirsting for more as I read the last page, only to find that the last 25% of the book's pages were assigned to Notes, References, Sources etc. I am prepared to trust that the book is the best-researched piece out there and for the private reader this serves no purpose. What would have been more helpful is better maps, as (at the strategic level) a number of locations are repeatedly referred to that don't appear on the very small map you get of kwaZulu Natal.
A final thought is that the book could have told a little more from the Zulu perspective - the narrative is firmly from the British point of view. I guess this is a limitation of source material but a slight feeling pervades that David is writing about 'us' vs 'them'.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
A superbly-written new history that I found enthralling and shocking. While the events of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift might be familiar to many, they have never before been brought to life in quite such a compelling way. David gets under the skin of not just the terrified redcoats, but also the proud but doomed Zulu warriors. It is with the Zulu nation that David sympathises most - as they try to sue for peace, the British remained intent on their utter destruction. A heartbreaking story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable read. 9 Jan 2013
If you are looking at the reviews of this book then you almost certainly have a more than passing interest in what is a fascinating and at times gripping era in British military history.

The available literature for this subject is vast, the Zulu war being far better covered in both film and written works than say, the Opium wars or the war fought against the Maori nation. Because of this there are certainly more detailed and comprehensive books available, for example "The washing of the spears" by Donald Morris, which seems to be the "industry standard" and many others beside.

However this work stands as a good and comprehensive account of the war against the Zulu nation, and crucially is a very well crafted book, easily accessible to teenage readers as well as the mature reader, at no point does the book become a tedious list of detail or technical blather. It does include some really interesting information on, for example, the Zulu perspective of several of the battles that I have not read else where. Well worth purchasing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars superb read
Well written book by Saul who clearly knows his stuff. Couldn't put it down. If you think that the film Zulu is factually accurate, read this book. Lots of information
Published 3 months ago by Monty
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A potted history of the Zulu wars, well laid out and gives the opinion of both sides.
Published 3 months ago by Robert L. Watson
3.0 out of 5 stars Total History
Quite interesting history of the Zulu nation and all the events running up to and including the battle at Rorkes Drift. Book was in great condition and well packed.
Published 7 months ago by Stewart Blane
3.0 out of 5 stars Zulu
This boo was bought for someone else so cannot rally comment on it. If its as good as the film then it should make interesting reading
Published 13 months ago by Pat Arpino
4.0 out of 5 stars good read
after Zulu and Zulu dawn a completely different look about what actually happened, it shows how flaw English military thinking was.
Published 16 months ago by Jim Whitehead
5.0 out of 5 stars Saul David
The TRUE STORY of Isandlwana and Rorkes Drift. Not the Hogwash presented to the public in the form of the film Zulu. Still I did enjoy the film.
Published 17 months ago by Alex Meikle
4.0 out of 5 stars A Gripping History
A well told history of this sorry time. Tells the story from all sides: British, Zulu, officers, men and warriors.

I enjoyed the accounts of heroism on both sides. Read more
Published 20 months ago by David
5.0 out of 5 stars Zulu
Having seen the film on many occasions, I also wanted to read the book. I am pleased I have done so, as this appears to set out in great detail and accuracy the actual story of... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Philip Elkins
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favourite History Of The Zulu War
I have to admit that like many others I developed a fascination with the Zulu War after having watched the Stanley Baker film "Zulu". Read more
Published on 12 Oct 2012 by Neil Lennon
5.0 out of 5 stars great read from start to finish
this book is a very interesting read. it is like a epic movie .defeats victories mistakes the end of a royal dynesty bravery and brutality on both sides you could not write a... Read more
Published on 5 Oct 2012 by mrs m
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