Sources of Conflict in Southern Africa, c. 1800–30: The ‘Mfecane’ Reconsidered*
This chapter provides a critique and synthesis of earlier interpretations and reassess the controversial prominent role given European slavers in the interpretation of the 'mfecane' recently proposed by Julian Cobbing. It attempts to present a more comprehensive picture by looking at the entire region, both east and west of the Drakensberg mountains, and by identifying changes over time in the dynamics of sociopolitical change and the generation of competition and conflict. The chapter examines the conflicts of the 1810s and 1820s in terms of their environmental and socio-political contexts. It outlines the economic and socio-political setting in which droughts resulted in famine and consequent competition for arable land and labor among Africans east of the Drakensberg. The chapter considers the same approach to analyze disruptions among the SeSotho- and SeTswana-speaking peoples west of the Drakensberg and to re-interpret the early migrations and raids in light of the natural environment of the region.