The defeat of British forces at the Battle of Isandlwana in January 1879 shocked the British public, who had grown accustomed to reports of easy military victories.
Isandlwana, the first battle of the Zulu War, saw more British troops lost than on any other single day between the Battle of Waterloo (1815) and the First World War (1914-18). Yet, immediately after this defeat, a small British garrison successfully fought off a huge Zulu force at Rorke’s Drift.
The cultural impact and legacy of these two contrasting events has been profound. While Isandlwana left a sombre legacy for many years, the story of the defence of Rorke’s Drift became legendary and was later the subject of the 1964 film 'Zulu'.
In addition to telling the story of each battle, Professor Ian Beckett will examine their impact from the British and the largely overlooked Zulu perspective.
This event is part of our partnership with Oxford University Press. Join us over the coming year for a series of events that look at the world’s most important battles: how they were fought, how they have been commemorated, and the long historical shadows they have cast.
Professor Ian Beckett is an internationally renowned historian of the British Army and the First World War. He taught at the University of Kent where he was Professor of Military History until 2015 and he remains an Honorary Professor of their School of History.
Previously, he was a Professor of History at the University of Northampton and has served as Chairman of the Army Records Society. He has taught in both Britain and the United States and is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.