Shaka Zulu

ca. 1790–1828
Ruler of the Zulu

Shaka Zulu founded the Zulu kingdom, which once controlled sections of present-day South Africa. In 1816 Shaka succeeded his father as ruler of the Zulu, a small ethnic group in southern Africa. Shaka soon expanded his chiefdom. He created a fierce army, providing his troops with long-bladed spears that were ideal for stabbing enemy soldiers in close combat. He also developed effective battle strategies that enabled him to defeat rival armies.

Several neighboring chiefdoms accepted Shaka’s rule and became part of the Zulu state. His troops raided and conquered other nearby peoples. Shaka forced the surviving males of defeated groups to join the Zulu army. He also required conquered people to pay tribute, which greatly increased his wealth and made the Zulu the most powerful group in the region. Shaka’s wars and invasions were a disaster to those he conquered. His rule also brought violence and hardship to his own people, and in 1828 several Zulu leaders murdered Shaka. (See also Southern Africa, History of; Zulu.)

Shaka Zulu