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A territory in South Africa lying between 28° and 29° S. Latitude and inhabited by the Zulus or Amazulus, who belong to the Bantu family. Since 1897 this region has been a province of the British colony of Natal, and comprises only two-thirds of the ancient Zulu possessions. It is bounded on by the Tugela on the south, the Transvaal on the west, Swaziland on the north, the Indian Ocean on the east, and has an area of 10,450 sq. miles.

In the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Zulus were a small tribe numbering hardly more than two or three thousand souls. Ten years later they could put 100,000 warriors in the field, and from that time until recently they devastated a great part of South Africa, and even terrorized the Boers and the British settlers. This was due to the appearance in their ranks of a great military genius, Tchaka, "the Zulu Napoleon". Having succeeded his father in 1810, he joined with Dinghwiswayo, King of the Umtewa, introduced military discipline among his men, and incorporated into his army the young men of the tribes he conquered. By 1818 these conquerors had exterminated or subjugated all their neighbours, except the great tribe of the Umdwandwe, whose chief was named Zuidi. Zuidi captured Dinghwiswayo and put him to death, but was in turn overcome by Tchaka, whose power was thereafter unchallenged. His empire in 1820 extended from Delagoa Bay to the St. John River, thus embracing the present territories of Natal, Zululand, Swaziland, Tongaland, and a part of the Transvaal.

After Zuidi's defeat several great migrations took place: members of his family and his principal officers, preferring exile to slavery, assembled some of their warriors and went north. Moselekietzi (in Zulu Umzilikazi) placed himself at the head of a clan, the Matabele, and, destroying everything in his path, settled between the Limpopo and the Zambesi Rivers. He died in 1867, leaving his throne to his son Lobengula, the founder of Bulawayo. This branch of the Zulus was conquered by the British in 1893, and Lobengula fled to the banks of the Zambesi where he died miserably. The Basutos were also attacked by the Zulus, but with the assistance of the French missionaries, Cassatis, Arbousset, and Gosselin, they preserved their independence. Through the vast plain lying along the Indian Ocean between the Natal and the mouth of the Zambesi, the Zulu tribes fled before Tchaka, devastating as they went. Among the chieftains of these savage hordes mention may be made of: Segondaba, who founded Mombera, west of Nyassa; Mozila, who allied himself with the Portuguese of Lorenzo Marques, and ceded to them the region south of the Nkomati; Gungunyanc, his son, who made war on the Portuguese, was defeated by them in 1898, and was exiled to Cape Verde.

Tchaka's empire, founded on massacre and pillage, could not last. In 1824 he came into contact with a number of English from the Cape, who helped him in his operations against the Pondos in the south. To these he granted trading facilities in his territory, and ceded to them Port Natal, which had been discovered by Vasco de Gama in 1497; near this district, the capital Durban (called after Urban, a governor of the cape) was established in 1846. In 1828 Tchaka was treacherously slain by his brother Dingaan, who succeeded him. The Boers were then beginning to cross the Drakenberge, and in 1837 almost a thousand of their wagons had passed over the mountains. Dingaan was startled by this foreign invasion, and, having invited several of them to a feast, treacherously massacred them. This was a signal for a merciless war. In a first encounter, on a tributary of the Tugela, Zulus surprised and killed nearly 700 Dutch men, women, and children. The name Weenen (tears) still points out the site of this butchery. The Boers did not yield. In 1840, Dingaan having been slain by his brother Pande, they allied themselves with the latter, and founded the Republic of Natal, making Pietermarit (named after two of heir heroes Pieter Retief and Gevrit Maritz) their capital. The Boers, having gained the upper-hand, began at once to drive all the blacks out of Natal. The Cape Government, however, intervened "in the name of humanity", and, "protecting" the Zulus against the Boers, and the Boers against the Zulus, soon became the master of both.

In 1872 Pande died, leaving the chieftainship to his son Cettiwayo (in Zulu Ketshwayo). The latter in 1879 ventured to make war against the British. Despite the inferiority of their weapons, the Zulus were victorious. In one of these conflicts Prince Louis Napoleon fell. But, finally, the Zulu army was overthrown on the banks of the Umvolosi, at the very spot where the tribal tradition placed the birthplace of their founder. Brought to England, and afterwards re-installed as chief in 1883, Cettiwayo died in 1884. His son, Dini Zulu, attempted a rebellion in 1889, but was captured and exiled to St. Helena. Since then, the Zulus, dispersed throughout the Natal and the territory left to them, seem to have lost, with their lack of cohesion, all idea of revolt and independence.

Though comprising different elements, the Zulus, disciplined and united by their terrible chieftains, are, generally speaking, handsome, tall, skilful and strong, athletic, and capable of advancement. No longer given to warfare, they have engaged in stock-raising and agriculture, and have made rapid progress in the ordinary trades. Most of them are fetishists, but the Catholic and Protestant missions have gathered around them a fair number of converts. Zululand does not form a distinct religious unit: it depends on the Vicariate Apostolic of Natal, which is confided to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Lately a Zulu priest, a doctor of theology, was ordained in the College of the Propaganda, Rome, and is engaged in missionary work among his fellow Zulus.


Zulu-land and the Tsizulu, Grammar of the Zulu Language (London, 1893); RECLUS, Nouvelle géographic univeselle: l'Afrique meridionale (Paris, 1888); Les missions catholiques: mission d'Afrique (Pais, 1902): Missiones Catholicae (Rome, 1907).

About this page

APA citation. Le Roy, A. (1912). Zululand. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Le Roy, Alexandre. "Zululand." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Michael T. Barrett. Dedicated to those who perished in the Zulu wars.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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