King of the Zulu Tribe, Shaka: Great Leader or Bloodthirsty Tyrant?

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King of the Zulu Tribe, Shaka: Great Leader or Bloodthirsty Tyrant?

One of the most documented African tribes is that of the Zulu kingdom. The rise and fall of the Zulu kingdom, in one way or another, relates to the most famous leader of the Zulu Empire, Shaka. Shaka brought the Zulu tribe from the bottom to the top, and only until his assassination in 1828 did the Zulu kingdom see a downfall in power and organization. Based on facts presented in case studies, as well as observing theories of state formation, it will determined if Shaka’s reign of power was that of a great leader or a power hungry, bloodthirsty tyrant. To get a better understanding of the Zulu kingdom under Shaka’s rule, we must first analyze the history of the Zulu
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As a state grows, regardless of the reason for expansion, the government must expand and become more structured and hierarchal. This, in turn, allows for a system of power to use power and expand while also developing an economic redistributive system. These two theories go hand in hand when explaining the development of the Zulu kingdom. The Zulu kingdom, arguably, would not have grown to what was seen during the 1820’s if not for that of King Shaka, who took on the role of king after Dingiswayo’s death in 1818. As a young child of the Zulu chief, Shaka took refuge with the Mthethwa tribe after being out casted by the Zulu’s for allowing a sheep to be killed by a dog. Shaka and his mother, Nandi, moved from clan to clan until they found acceptance with the Mthethwa tribe. Here, Shaka grew into a man, and eventually a warrior where Shaka’s true power was seen and molded. Upon Dingiswayo’s death Shaka’s father, while paying homage to Dingiswayo, found that his son had become a great man and leader. Upon his death, because of pressure of his wives, Shaka was not appointed the new chief of the Zulu clan. This event would lead to Shaka’s rise to king and the rise of the Zulu kingdom under Shaka. Shaka took it upon himself to kill his half-brother who was appointed king, and took the crown for himself.

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