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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, readable account of famous 'little war.'
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...
Published on 5 Jan 2009 by Kentspur

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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much opinion and not enough history
I found this an interesting book, but spoiled by personal judgement and a Boys Own approach to heroism.The first question an author must ask himself is what would he have done when surrounded by a horde of Zulus intent on taking his life in an unpleasant manner. It is easy to make judgements from the comfort of an armchair. Secondly, not all heroes are 'blood and guts...
Published on 12 Dec 2006 by C. B. Walker


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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, readable account of famous 'little war.', 5 Jan 2009
By 
Kentspur (Er...Kent) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Zulu (Paperback)
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. David does not have the clearest of narratives through that astonishing battle, but - don't get me wrong - it's not bad. Kershaw's book is exceptional and David - a Victorian specialist - does really well with the context of the war and mind-set of the men involved.

I was amused to see the most popular 'critical' review, which - judging from the books the 'customer' says they have authored - appears to come from Zulu War obsessive Ian Knight. Mr Knight has written an awful lot of books on the Zulu War and, prior to Mr David's intervention, was the 'go to' guy on the conflict. I'm not being nasty, but nothing Mr Knight has written (and sad to say I've read a lot of it) is anywhere near as good as what Saul David has produced and his 'review' is - well - a bit sour and stinks of grapes. Naughty Saul David not knowing how the rockets were fired! That's the big stuff, isn't it?

I think this is an excellent account of the most famous of Victoria's little wars.
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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
By 
Mr. Robert A. Swift (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Zulu (Paperback)
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'. A fuller Zulu perspective would have added even greater value and originality.
These grumbles are very small and minor, however, and I would encourage anyone with an interest in the subject to buy this book. It's main strength is David's very readable style and his wealth of small detail that brings this very rich period to life.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping account of a tragic and brutal conflict, 16 Nov 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Zulu (Hardcover)
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
By 
M. D. Budd (Buxton) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Zulu (Paperback)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zulu, 27 Nov 2012
By 
Philip Elkins "Philip" (Spain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zulu (Paperback)
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 true events, before and after 'Rorke's Drift'. In fact I enjoyed it so much, I have read it twice already! It has also added to the enjoyment of the classic film of the same name.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favourite History Of The Zulu War, 12 Oct 2012
This review is from: Zulu (Paperback)
I have to admit that like many others I developed a fascination with the Zulu War after having watched the Stanley Baker film "Zulu". Since then I have read a lot of books on the subject which go into varying levels of detail about the war but Saul David's book is the most readable and informative history to date.

As well as covering the most famous battles at Isandlwana and Rorkes Drift this book also covers a lot of lesser known battles that I was surprised to find are equally as fascinating to read about. For some reason other books barely mention the rest of the campaign but Saul David's "Zulu" vividly describes each episode in exciting and extremely readable prose.

Several highly detailed maps are provided at the front of the book showing the different battles and there are the usual collection of photo's and drawings to help illustrate the text.

Although the book does focus on the campaign from the British viewpoint the writing does show a great deal of respect for the bravery and achievements of the Zulu people. For a more detailed history of the Zulu's themselves Donald R Morris's "The Washing of the Spears" goes right back to the origins of the Zulu nation but doesn't do as good a job at describing the 1879 war.

If you want a stirring and engaging account of the Zulu War which will have you wanting to watch the movie "Zulu" again for the 500th time then I cannot reccomend Saul David's book more highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting, 10 Oct 2011
This review is from: Zulu (Paperback)
When I began reading this booking I was a little fearful that it would just be a series of descriptions of battles which I have previously found to be quite tedious.

Fortunately, this book is so much more. A lively cast of entertaining characters, some fascinating political machinations involving Queen Victoria and Disraeli, plenty of myth-debunking and some truly exciting battle descriptions.

A relatively easy read if you can get your head round some of the Zulu names (would have been nice to have been told how to pronounce them). The narrative flows well and there aren't too many of those annoying *'s interrupting the flow and turning your attention to an aside or clarification (the ones that are there are brief).

Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zulu, 13 May 2010
By 
John Lake (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Zulu (Hardcover)
Excellent account of military defeat that shows how ego's, assumptions, erroneous communication and misplaced gallantry and courage can end good men's lives.

Clearly and knowledgeably written.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much opinion and not enough history, 12 Dec 2006
By 
C. B. Walker (Northumberland UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zulu (Paperback)
I found this an interesting book, but spoiled by personal judgement and a Boys Own approach to heroism.The first question an author must ask himself is what would he have done when surrounded by a horde of Zulus intent on taking his life in an unpleasant manner. It is easy to make judgements from the comfort of an armchair. Secondly, not all heroes are 'blood and guts types', in fact most aren't. To denigrate Bromhead and Chard because of others personal opinion of them is I think grossly unjust as the historical records are very thin. Doubtless after Rorke's Drift most people would would also have been quite content to sit and smoke their pipe. Easy also to condemn some of the participants from their own pen, and then take others as being without fault or lie. Facts, Chelmsford made a number of serious errors that lead directly to Isandhlwana. Fact, Chard was the senior officer at Rorkes Drift, and he, together with Bromhead and Dalton and others conducted a sound defence. A fact worthy of merit I think, regardless of whether a contemporary or two found him a 'dull type. The Prince Imperial was a fool, and it takes an extraordinarily brave man, or another fool, to turn back and face certain death to save a fool. (And a frenchman to boot, lol). Also one who was riding a horse too tall for him to mount with ease, and who couldn't hit a barn door with his revolver. Sorry, but I do not find Carey guilty, and the suppressing of the Court Martial judgement reflects that while he perhaps for honour's sake ought to have returned, not many people would honestly regard the 'honour' of giving up their lives a justifiable reason for doing so. I find the authors approach to individuals incongruous when the he is happy to condone the slaughter of wounded Zulus as being in the heat of battle. I do not need a book to tell me that the film 'ZULU' is factually incorrect, such comments are for a film review. In summary, I found this book popularist and lightweight, with too many judgemental opinions made on the flimsiest of evidence, and little insight or understanding of the military mind. I would refer readers to any one of a number of better books for a fuller account of the Zulu war.
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76 of 96 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Too many serious mistakes, 9 Oct 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Zulu (Hardcover)
Given the author's admission in his Acknowledgements that he spent only a year researching and writing the book, it's hard not to feel that it is hurried. His prose is engaging and whisks the reader through the rather sad tale easily enough, but there are errors and omissions aplenty, and anyone with an interest in the war will easily spot the influence of recent specialist books on the subject (Lock and Quantrill's controversial study of Isandlwana, for example, Adrian Greaves' Rorke's Drift and The Curling Letters, my own National Army Museum and Prince Imperial books). There is no mention, for example, of the war of raid and counter-raid that took place along the Anglo-Zulu borders throughout the war, and several major characters - such as King Cetshwayo's adviser, the extraordinary 'White Zulu' John Dunn - are introduced only in footnotes. There are, moreover, a surprising number of factual mistakes. The Hales rocket was not fired from its trough by 'a hand-lit fuse' (p. 76), but by tugging on a lanyard attached to a friction detonator. The Imperial Mounted Infantry - a scratch cavalry force raised from volunteers from infantry battalions who could ride - were not 'armed with unwieldy Martini-Henry rifles' (p. 68) but with Swinburne-Henry carbines. James Rorke, the Irish border-trader who gave his name to Rorke's Drift, did not die 'childless' (p. 159); his sons, like many second-generation frontier farmers, crossed the colour divide and married Zulu wives, a choice which placed them outside the rigid confines of white colonial society, and has left their history largely unwritten. Frances Colenso, the daughter of the Bishop of Natal and defender of Durnford's reputation, was not 'Fanny' to her family (p. 64) but 'Nel'. The Natal Carbineers - one of the most important of the locally raised white volunteer units - are referred to as the Royal Natal Carbineers - a title they only enjoyed between 1935 and 1961. Indeed, there is a good deal of confusion in evidence here about the distinction between Volunteer troops - who were part-time soldiers raised under the Natal Volunteer Acts, did not enlist under Queen's Regulations, and who required a special dispensation to fight outside Natal territory - and the Irregulars, who were raised directly by the Crown for full-time service for a specified period.
Nit-picking? Perhaps, but these are all points which could have been resolved with a greater familiarity with even recent literature on the war. There are questionable judgements, too. Was Lord Chelmsford really 'offhand to the point of rudeness when dealing with Colonial officers' (p. 38)? Certainly, Chelmsford's experiences in the earlier Cape Frontier War had left him sceptical of colonial officers' judgement, but his manners were generally impeccable, and Commandant Hamilton Browne - himself a Colonial - noted that his personal behaviour was 'kind and courteous.. a manner that endeared him to all of us. No General that I ever served under in South Africa, was so respected and liked as he was, and certainly, no Colonial officer ever said a word against him'. In dealing with the events surrounding Isandlwana, the author is quick to point out that Lord Chelmsford, splitting his force on the eve of battle, failed to take a reserve supply of ammunition with him; later, at the height of the fighting, Quartermaster Bloomfield of the 2/24th is blamed for being 'pedantic' (p. 135) in the distribution of ammunition. The crucial point, however - that Bloomfield was husbanding the very reserve supplies, which Chelmsford had ordered to be made ready in case he needed them, is missed. And, in assessing the behaviour of an officer who had abandoned his men at the battle of Ntombe, Dr David remarks that 'there were marked similarities between Harward's conduct and that of Major Spalding at Rorke's Drift, the only difference being that Spalding did not abandon his men while an enemy attack was actually in progress' (p. 248). More could not, surely, hang on such a difference as that?
In his account of the crucial battle of Isandlwana, the author has followed a recent revisionist interpretation, which is by no means generally accepted; nothing necessarily wrong with that, but he makes no effort to evaluate contradictory evidence, to the extent that several statements given here simply cannot be supported. At the height of the battle, says the author, Second Lieutenant 'Dyson's small party never received the order [to withdraw] and were speared to a man' (p. 132). In fact, while Dyson's ultimate fate remains hotly debated, the only direct evidence - from either side - comes from the survivor, Captain Essex, who went out of his way to describe how he delivered that order to Dyson, and how Dyson obeyed. The conventional version of the start of the battle of Isandlwana - in which a British patrol stumbles upon the resting Zulu army, and provokes a spontaneous attack - is described as 'great cinema; but not the truth' (p. 123) - despite the fact that plenty of those who were there recalled the incident in exactly those terms.
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Zulu by Saul David (Paperback - 28 July 2005)
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