Gregory Roberts Roberts من عند Novosyolki, Bryanskaya oblast', روسيا، 241516
I am pleased to say, The Washing of the Spears long held reputation as a classic of military history is well earned. Morris was an American naval officer in the 40s and a CIA agent when he wrote this work of immense quality and deep scholarship. Of course, much of the material is dated, but that cannot detract from its accomplishment. To this day, many refer to it as the seminal work on the Anglo-Zulu Wars. No doubt, that is as much a tribute to the quality of the narrative prose as it is to the research. At the time Morris was writing, he was also pursuing something relatively novel in the history of colonial wars -- he tried to reconstruct the perspective of the Zulus. Perhaps, that is one of the reasons that an American historian wrote the seminal work on the war. Until Washing of the Spears, the war was understood through the journals of the participants and the long simmering military debate on responsibility for Isandlwana. Morris changed that by trying to give a more complete picture of the motivations of all combatants. Furthermore, while Morris started out writing just about the Anglo-Zulu War, he quickly realized that he could not tell the story without tracing the history all the way back to the foundation of the Zulu nation. Of course, the unlikely creation of the Zulu nation by Shaka Zulu is a legendary tale and I enjoyed every page that Morris devoted to it. Thereafter, Morris bridges to Cetshwayo and the drive to war. He seems to support the notion that the war was largely a mistake driven by a local policy too keen to appease the Boers, who were ultimately unappeasable. Subsequently, the three great events of the war dominate the story -- Isandlwana, Rorke's Drift and the killing of the Prince Imperial (son of the recently exiled Napoleon III). While I new of the general story, in the hands of a master storyteller, you see it all blend together into something greater than the sum of its parts. The complex history of southern Africa will inevitably make more sense having read this book. Of course, you will probably want to pick up Pakenham's Boer War to get the end of the story. Nevertheless, I can't think of a better place to start. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. While its not short, I was engaged throughout. Morris tells a lively tale, full of insight and with an overarching unity that takes what might be isolated struggles and weaves them into a broader fabric. You don't need to care a lick about pith helmets or asagai's to enjoy this book. I fully recommend it to anyone with an interest in history, much less military history.