Discuss the view that Shaka Zulu was the sole cause of the turmoil, migrations and state formation that occurred in the southern African interior in the early 19th century?
Shaka Zulu may be a divisive figure, but he has left an indelible effect on the region's history. He was a terrible warrior as well as a symbol of African unity, drawing analogies to ancient Sparta's ruthless but clever military leaders. The famous 19th-century Zulu king gathered tribal divisions together for the first time, creating a state and a strong sense of identity for the region's largest population – a common culture that still exists today. His militaristic acts reverberated throughout Africa, permanently disrupting the power balance. Shaka began by reorganizing Zulu warriors, instituting a stringent training program, new blade weaponry in place of the old spear, new attack formations, and a strong code of obedience. Like Sparta, Zulu society was completely reorganized to support the army.
Shaka's military conquests not only established a political entity in the Zulu Kingdom, but they also resulted in huge population displacement, a crisis that historians refer to as the Mfecane Period. Those who were not slain or assimilated by the advancing Zulu warriors fled from the 1820s to the 1840s, resulting in a refugee crisis and reshuffling of South Africa's customary communities. For the sake of security, many groups banded together, forming new communities. Tribes fleeing the upheaval founded the tiny nations of Lesotho and Swaziland, which are nearly entirely engulfed by South Africa. During the Mfecane, existing famines increased, giving rise to a few cheap jokes about European missionaries being cooked up in enormous, seething pots. Historians think cannibalism didn't happen or happened occasionally during this period, but the Mfecane's enmity prompted rumors to spread like wildfire and be reported as fact by Europeans.