Tag Archives: Napoleon

Shaka Zulu (1)

He was one of the greatest military commanders in history. He revolutionised warfare on his own continent. A huge statue of him now stands in the middle of a restaurant in London :

He was born in July 1787 and he was assassinated on September 22nd 1828. He was the King of the Zulus from 1816 to 1828. His name was Tshaka kaSenzangakhona but he was better known as “Shaka Zulu”.

His enemies said that he had a big nose, that he had two prominent front teeth and that he spoke as though “his tongue were too big for his mouth.” Many people said that he spoke with a speech impediment. He himself admitted that “Shaka himself was ugly, with a protruding forehead”.

We have no photographs, of course, in 1820. Just drawings or paintings:

Two British ivory traders, Francis Farewell and Henry Fynn, introduced other white men to Shaka in 1824. They were appalled by his cruelty to his enemies. At the same time, they could see his obvious leadership qualities, impressive self possession, great intelligence and a genuine sense of humour.

Shaka was tall. He was muscled. He was strong. His skin tone was dark brown. Petros Sibani, a current historian and tour guide of the Zulu battlefields, has given a sensible opinion about him. He said that there was no doubting that :

“Shaka was a cruel and ruthless man, but these were cruel and ruthless times”

Some historians have called him the Black Napoleon. Fans of the reggae sound system culture regularly chant his name:  “Shakalaka”:

Praise indeed.

As Shaka gradually earned the respect of the Zulu people, they became increasingly willing to adapt his ideas.

Shaka taught the Zulus that if they were to dominate the tribes around them, the most effective strategy was to beat them on the battlefield. Those surrounding tribes had to be conquered and their lands and cattle taken for the Zulus. Any prisoners were given the opportunity of joining his Zulu army.  In this way, the Zulu tribe increased in size extremely quickly and every Zulu soon developed the mindset of a true warrior.

On occasion, though, Chaka made use of other methods as well,  such as diplomatic ties and patronage. The chiefs of friendly tribes became his allies. These included Zihlandlo of the Mkhize, Jobe of the Sithole, and Mathubane of the Thuli. These three tribes were never beaten in battle by the Zulu. Instead Chaka won their hearts and minds by treating them well and repeatedly rewarding them for their loyalty to him.

Initially, the Zulus had fought with a long throwing assegai but to make them more successful, Chaka made radical changes to this traditional weapon. Here is the throwing assegai:

The Zulus had always carried a shield in the left hand. It was a piece of defensive armour designed to deflect enemy spears or assegais and the arrows fired by Hottentots and other non-Bantu peoples . It was often carried also during lion or leopard hunts as protection against such fierce animals. I think that this is the pre-Chaka defensive shield:

Boys would practice with their weapons in “stick fights” with other boys. This activity still exists nowadays:

Chaka would make changes to all of the traditional activities and weapons. He would transform the Zulus into a disciplined army, equipped with weapons that suited the sophisticated new tactics that he had taught them.

He re-organised the Zulu army from top to bottom and transformed it into a fearsome fighting force through a number of  tactical changes. These changes would permit the Zulus to fight against Europeans and, on occasion, to inflict heavy defeats, as happened here at the Battle of Isandlwana:

Next time, the new weapons and the new tactics in more detail, and some more very long Zulu words.

“Sobonana ngokuzayo !”

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Filed under Africa, History, military

Vive l’Empéreur !!

I watched a fantastic programme, or rather series of programmes, last winter on BBC2, I think it was. They were so good that I bought the book:

cover

They were all about Napoleon.
I had always wondered why the British hate Napoleon so much and the French love him. Why the British call him names and the French name streets after him.
Both the programmes and the book were by Andrew Roberts:

andrew-roberts
He did a great job at explaining exactly why this situation has arisen.

It was because on the one hand, the England of the Napoleonic era had always prided itself on being full of free men, free to say what they wanted, to go where they wanted and so on. With a parliament and a monarch beloved by all, bless him, who never interfered in the running of an almost perfect society. Deep down though, the English knew that this portrait of their land was a complete load of rubbish.

They knew that Napoleon was a child of the Enlightenment, the fullest and finest flowering of ideas in the history of Mankind:

stamp-napoleon-france

Napoleon wanted to export the values of the Enlightenment across Europe. And the British wanted none of it. That’s why they coughed up £65,000,000 over the years, paying for countries such as Austria and Russia to attack and annihilate him, without any English lives being lost:

wallpaper_cossacks_2_
The British saw Napoleon as a direct threat to “England’s Green and Pleasant Land”.

A “Green and Pleasant Land” where the rich seized the poor’s common land and called it their own.

Where Corn Laws prevented hungry poor people from eating bread made from cheap imported foreign wheat, so that rich English farmers could stay wealthy.

Where all of the people in charge of anything, the army, the navy, the government, everything, was a nobleman and had a title:

house-of-lords4[1]

And parliament was full of greedy men elected by unbelievably tiny numbers of voters. This practice made use of “Rotten Boroughs” and Pocket Boroughs”. Here are two of the “Four Prints of an Election” by William Hogarth.  You can see them in greater detail here.

This is the “Election Entertainment“:

chairing

This one is called “Chairing the Members”:

election enter
Next time, we will look at the achievements of Napoleon. They are many and apply to so many different fields, from giving a mole catcher a more important job to making the arrangements to educate young women:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Criminology, France, History, Politics

Fashion in Nottingham in 1760

In recent months, I have been completely hooked by “The Date-Book of Remarkable Memorable Events Connected With Nottingham and Its Neighbourhood 1750-1879”, by John Frost Sutton. It records a world so similar and yet so different to our own. Fashion, for example:

“Here are a few words explanatory of the costume of the period. The dress of the upper and middle classes being then, as now, a model for those beneath, may be regarded as sufficiently indicative of the prevailing style.”

“Ladies were attired in stiff stays, tightly laced”:

Tight_lacing

“….tightly laced over the stomacher, and long in the waist, causing the upper portion of the figure to resemble the letter V.”

Like this:

white corset

The stomacher could usually be removed from one dress and transferred to another. In this way, it was possible to ‘mix-and-match’ designs and colours. Here are two stomachers of the period:

“The thinness of the waist appeared still more striking by the sudden fullness of the gown, occasioned by the hooped petticoat.”

Here are two hooped petticoats, both modern. One is structured horizontally, the other vertically:

Here’s the fullest dress I could find. And yes, that is a fabric called “cloth-of-silver”:

m 18th-century-court-gown-cloth-of-silver

“A close head-dress, and shoes with high heels of divers colours, completed the ensemble. Gentlemen were much more gay in their apparel than would now be thought consistent with good taste. Claret-coloured cloths were deemed very handsome in the circles of high fashion, and suits of light blue, with silver buttonholes and silver garters at the knees, were quite in the mode.”

Here are two suits, one in blue and the other in claret. West Ham eat your hearts out:

“Perukes, of light grey human hair, were worn”:

“Dark hair was of no estimation whatever”:

dark wig

Men used to wear:

“A large cocked hat, called “the Keven Huller, which was about six inches broad in the brim.”

This was named after Keven Huller, a now long forgotten Austrian general who fought against the armies of the French Revolutionaries and then Napoleon himself, in the last decade of the eighteenth century.I  have been unable to find any picture of this fashionable hat from long ago. Men also wore:

“a square-cut coat, and a long-flapped waistcoat, and shoe-buckles of an enormous size”.

Here is a long waistcoat:

buckles

Here are some rather attractive shoe buckles:

sghoeds

Their overcoat might be

” a heavy dragoon type with wide gold braid”

overcoat

I have been unable to find any picture of the type of hat with the so-called “Denmark Cock high at the back, low in the front and tilted forward” or indeed the “Dettingen Cock” or the “Monmouth Cock”  style of headgear.

 

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Filed under History, Nottingham