Episode 21 – The Nguni move west, maize arrives and smallpox eviscerates the Cape


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By Desmond Latham. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
This is episode 21 and we’re probing the growth of Nguni societies – as well as the terrible smallpox epidemic of 1713. First a note about historical records. As I’ve mentioned the use of archaeological surveys and oral history along with specific tools used such as pottery and metal artifacts provides quite a bit of detail about the history of the Nguni and Sotho as well as the Tswana in South Africa. However, the oral history comes with an obvious warning. And nowhere is that more important than along the Eastern seaboard – the future home of the Zulu. After the development of Zulu power in early 1800, oral historians were pressurized to tell the story from the point of view of what had been a tiny clan before Shaka came along in the early 19th Century. This narrative cleansing if you like expunged a great deal of the knowledge traditional societies had developed over hundreds of years. I’m mentioning this now because that’s unlike other parts of South Africa – the Xhosa for example, the Sotho, Tswana and Venda whose individual clan narratives are still largely intact. Compounding this truth decay Nguni archaeology in KwaZulu Natal is also less well known that Tswana and Sotho. This is the result of difficulty in locating early Nguni settlements as well as the Zulu state’s revisionist oral history. Then a terrible disease made its way ashore in 1713 borne by a visiting fleet of VOC ships that anchored in Table Bay. It sent its linen ashore to be washed by company slaves in Cape Town. The laundry bore a smallpox virus which was to rage throughout that year, killing hundreds of Europeans and slaves. It’s impact on the Khoe was catastrophic.

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