South Africa

Map of the Zulu Empire, South Africa. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The country of South Africa has long been the epicentre of several peoples and indigenous groups, including the Bantu, who settled around the fourth century AD, Khoisan, Khoikhoi, Xhosa, and Zulu groups. The Bantu peoples established the kingdom of Mapungubwe in the eleventh century, which was short-lived. In 1487 the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias landed in southern Africa and travelled along the western and eastern coasts. By the seventeenth century the Portuguese had been ousted by the Dutch who used the area as a trading post and established further settlements, which led to warfare with the Xhosa peoples. At the end of the eighteenth century Britain occupied Cape Town sporadically, before it was formally ceded to Britain at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The region was ravaged between internal conflict and expansion by and between the British and Zulus, as well as with the Boer republics, established by previous Dutch settlers. By 1931, the Union of South Africa, established in 1910, became fully independent from Britain, and with it the removal of any formal monarchical rule in the area.

With several indigenous rulers across the many tribal groups that inhabited South Africa at various points during its history, much can be said about kingship in the region. Less so has been written on female rule, however you can find out more about Nandi, one of the famous Zulu queens, below!


Cymone Fourshey, Catherine, Rhonda M. Gonzales, and Christine Saudi. Bantu Africa. 3500 BCE to Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017

Gump, James Oliver. The Formation of the Zulu Kingdom in South Africa. San Francisco: EM Text, 1990

Morris, Donald R. The Washing of the Spears: A History of the Rise of the Zulu Nation under Shaka and its fall in the Zulu War of 1879. New York: Vintage, 1994

Thompson, Leonard. A History of South Africa. Fourth Edition. London: Yale University Press, 2014.

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