Over the decades a great deal has been written about Shaka, the most famous-or infamous-of Zulu leaders.
It may come as a surprise, therefore, that even the most basic facts about his life are locked in obscurity.
His date of birth, what he looked like, and the circumstances of his assassination remain unknown. Meanwhile the public image, sometimes monstrous, sometimes heroic, juggernauts on-truly a "myth of iron" that is so intriguing, so dramatic, so archetypal, and sometimes so politically useful that few have subjected it to proper scrutiny. Myth of Iron: Shaka in History is the first book-length scholarly study of Shaka to be published.
It lays out, as far as possible, all the available evidence-mainly hitherto underutilized Zulu oral testimonies, supported by other documentary sources-and decides, item by item, legend by legend, what exactly is known about Shaka's reign.
The picture that emerges in this meticulously researched and absorbing antibiography is very different from the popular narrative.