Zulu or Ashanti, who would win?

Who wins the hypothetical battle for Africa?


  • Total voters
    20

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,630
Benin City, Nigeria
The Asante weren't really a warrior culture like the Zulu, not after they consolidated their territory, anyway.
The ruler of Asante in 1820 (this was after their territory had already been consolidated in the previous century) described Asante as "a nation of warriors" to the British consul Joseph Dupuis, and also claimed in another statement that "Ashantee is a country for war".

Their army was made up of villagers, who in peace time were doing little more than protecting their settlements from wild animals.
Wild animals?

They did have a distinct type of sword btw, the Akrefena - kinda looks like your cliche pirate sword, with holes in it ( no clue what that is about ).
There were also swords with no holes. More than likely the versions with holes tended to be for ceremonial use.
 
Jun 2013
865
Universe
The Zulus are extremely overrated when it comes to their military in precolonial Africa. The Ashantis lasted MUCH longer against the British[one of the longest colonial resistance in Africa] than the Zulus ever could. From 1824 to 1901. Again longer than the Zulus can dream. The Ashantis were much more impressive against the British imo.

Second as far a I can remember the Zulus strategies were mostly close combat, the Ashantis can easily crush them with a combination of both close and long combat. And whoever said the Ashantis were not a warrior culture I personally disagree, I read they were a highly militarized culture. Again, I remember reading that.
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,630
Benin City, Nigeria
I don't think the conflicts that occurred before 1874 were really "colonial resistance" and of course the conflicts were separated by some years of peace or years where there were only minor skirmishes.
 
Jun 2013
865
Universe
I don't think the conflicts that occurred before 1874 were really "colonial resistance" and of course the conflicts were separated by some years of peace or years where there were only minor skirmishes.
Look it up the first major battle between the two started around 1823-1831. But my main point was the British had a MUCH harder time conquering the Ashanti than the Zulus which war only lasted a year. Fact that there was years of peace between the timeline of the Anglo-Ashanti Wars shows that the Ashanti people resisted the British much more successfully than the Zulus imo.
 

cachibatches

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,351
Look it up the first major battle between the two started around 1823-1831. But my main point was the British had a MUCH harder time conquering the Ashanti than the Zulus which war only lasted a year. Fact that there was years of peace between the timeline of the Anglo-Ashanti Wars shows that the Ashanti people resisted the British much more successfully than the Zulus imo.
Much appreciate your input, and what you are saying was actually noted in the opening comments. The Ashanti were much more stubborn, and, also extremely tactically flexible. This is one of the big arguments for the Ashanti.

The argument for the Zulu is that they stopped an enormous, modern British army dead in its tracks with the three wins at Isandlwana, Eshowe, and Hllobane. To put this into context, there were about 35,000 Zulus in the army. The British had about 17,000-18,000, fully half of which would have been crack British Infantry armed with Martini-Henry breech loading rifles capable of firing up to twelve rounds a minute and hitting targets at perhaps several hundred yards.

Several thousand more of their number would have been cavarly, mostly irregular Afrikaner and African cavalry that fought like "cowboys," firing rifles and pistols from horseback. There also would have been some classic British lancers.

Rounding out the number were native levies (other than then cavarly) which would be used for scouting, logistics, and mopping up.

The Zulu stopped this juggernaut in its tracks. This would have been a formidable army against any opponent in the world, and some might even say ahead of its time, since they had cavalry that fought more intelligently than that of classic European shock cavalry, which had not caught up with the times and come to grip with the increased lethality of weapons.

A lot of people decry Zulumania, or Zuluphilia, and it is hard to understand why. They did somethings that seemed almost impossible.
 
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Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,630
Benin City, Nigeria
Look it up the first major battle between the two started around 1823-1831. But my main point was the British had a MUCH harder time conquering the Ashanti than the Zulus which war only lasted a year. Fact that there was years of peace between the timeline of the Anglo-Ashanti Wars shows that the Ashanti people resisted the British much more successfully than the Zulus imo.
I am aware of when the first major conflict occurred. I just view the earlier conflicts before 1874 as being more along the lines of two states competing for influence/power in a certain area (the coast) and eventually warring rather than really being a case of anti-colonial resistance. It might be hard to believe nowadays, but the Asante in the early 1800s (such as in 1823-1831) simply were not at any real risk of being "colonized", and the conflicts before the 1874 war are not something I would interpret as fitting under the label of anti-colonial resistance. That is just my opinion and you are welcome to disagree of course. Some scholars certainly have described the earlier conflicts as anti-colonial resistance of course so there are definitely other people that hold the same view that you do.
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,630
Benin City, Nigeria
A lot of people decry Zulumania, or Zuluphilia, and it is hard to understand why. They did somethings that seemed almost impossible.
When people start to form an image in their minds which is totally out of sync with historical sources - such as the incorrect notion that the Asante were not a very warlike people - something akin to "Zulumania" is clearly going on and distorting people's understanding, or their interest in gaining an understanding, of actual history.

In the case of the Asante war of 1873-1874, the Asante government was divided at the time of the 1873-1874 conflict because of internal disputes and basically fought at half strength. Because of their internal issues there was little political will to fight until the battle was right at their doorstep, actually. Additionally, the 1873-1874 campaign was actually better planned and executed than the British campaign in Zululand was. There is a good analysis of that conflict in Wars of Imperial Conquest in Africa, 1830-1914 by Bruce Vandervort on pp. 84-101.

As for the Zulu vs. the British, the Zulu performance was not better than the Sudanese Mahdists against the British. It was actually less impressive. So I do not know why it is that what the Zulus did is described as "almost impossible" to achieve when what they achieved was exceeded by another group on the same continent around the same time.

So why isn't there, in modern times (I'm not talking about earlier decades) as much hype surrounding the Sudanese? I really did read a comment saying the Zulu would have overrun the continent (!) if their culture had developed in the medieval period. What else could that conclusion be based upon except Zulumania?

Finally, many, if not most, of the later conflicts (after the Zulu war) with native African powers that the British had were carried out with the use of machine guns (in fact that is what they used to beat the Sudanese Mahdists, though one recent author has attempted - not really convincingly - to downplay the importance of machine guns at the end of the Mahdist war), and these later conflicts simply cannot be likened to the British conflict with the Zulu in terms of the firepower involved, as these battles were of an entirely different nature just by virtue of the weapons used. The Zulu never faced such a challenge as what those groups that fought armies equipped with machine guns did. Making it seem like what the Zulus faced was one of the most powerful forces the British fielded in Africa actually just misrepresents the facts completely in my view.
 

cachibatches

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,351
When people start to form an image in their minds which is totally out of sync with historical sources - such as the incorrect notion that the Asante were not a very warlike people - something akin to "Zulumania" is clearly going on and distorting people's understanding, or their interest in gaining an understanding, of actual history.
Actually, I would say that this is just lack of knowledge about the Ashanti. Hopefully, this thread will remedy that.

In the case of the Asante war of 1873-1874, the Asante government was divided at the time of the 1873-1874 conflict because of internal disputes and basically fought at half strength. Because of their internal issues there was little political will to fight until the battle was right at their doorstep, actually. Additionally, the 1873-1874 campaign was actually better planned and executed than the British campaign in Zululand was. There is a good analysis of that conflict in Wars of Imperial Conquest in Africa, 1830-1914 by Bruce Vandervort on pp. 84-101.
Sure. Which is why we went though the trouble of delineating the advantages that the Ashanti would have. I would add for a third time in the thread that they were also better at switching tactics. More cards to play.


As for the Zulu vs. the British, the Zulu performance was not better than the Sudanese Mahdists against the British.
Of course it was. The Zulu stopped dead in its tracks a modern British army of 17,000 with three separate victories. Any time the Mahdists faced significant British numbers they lost (Abu Klea, El Teb, Tamai).

It was actually less impressive.
No, I am sorry. You put me is a paradoxical postion here because I quite enjoyed THE RIVER WAR (as a matter of fact, I wrote a paper about the Mahdi in college) and admire the Sudanese, but they did not equal what the Zulu did.

And, so what if they did? That degrades the Zulu feat somehow?

So I do not know why it is that what the Zulus did is described as "almost impossible" to achieve when what they achieved was exceeded by another group on the same continent around the same time.
Again, the Mahdists were mauled every time they faced British troops. Even small numbers of Brits were able to kill thousands of Sudanese.


So why isn't there, in modern times (I'm not talking about earlier decades) as much hype surrounding the Sudanese?
I will be blunt: it seems you like the Sudandese over the Zulu, and that is fine. The Sudanese are a gret people and it is incredible to think that they were the bane of empires from the Egyptians, through the Persians, Romans, Ethiopians, up through the British.

But no, what they did was just not as viscerally impressive.

It is kind of a strange argument because this thread is explicitly made to address the fact that there were other comparable peoples in Africa. I chose the Ashanti because I thought that the use of muskets compared nicely with the Zulu spear, but we could have done the Sudanese, the Ethiopians under Menelik, Samori Toure, etc.

Why can't it just be a fun celebration of the African fighting man? You say you don't like these head-to-heads, and yet you bring a third party into the conversation for one of your own. If you are not impressed by the Zulu, then why not just participate and pick the Ashanti?

I really did read a comment saying the Zulu would have overrun the continent (!) if their culture had developed in the medieval period. What else could that conclusion be based upon except Zulumania?
The poster who said this, while a good fellow, has a lot of far out ideas.

Finally, many, if not most, of the later conflicts (after the Zulu war) with native African powers that the British had were carried out with the use of machine guns
They used Gatlin guns at Ulundi, as well as 7 pounders firing cannister.


(in fact that is what they used to beat the Sudanese Mahdists, though one recent author has attempted - not really convincingly - to downplay the importance of machine guns at the end of the Mahdist war),
They also used Cordite. It is generally accepted that the biggest effect was the use of dum-dum bullets. Regardless, as noted earlier, they killed thousands of Mahdists without machine guns, but needed them to beat the Zulu. So it is an entirely moot point twice over.

and these later conflicts simply cannot be likened to the British conflict with the Zulu in terms of the firepower involved,
As noted, they can. The British actually needed the Gatlin gun to defeat the Zulu in the field. Not so of the Sudanese. I have cited all relevant battles.

as these battles were of an entirely different nature just by virtue of the weapons used. The Zulu never faced such a challenge as what those groups that fought armies equipped with machine guns did. Making it seem like what the Zulus faced was one of the most powerful forces the British fielded in Africa actually just misrepresents the facts completely in my view.
Sorry friend. You are one of the best posters around and DEFINATELY the greatest expert on African history around, but a large part of Chelmsford's idea after Isandlwana was precicely to bring in the machine guns--and artillery.
 
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Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,630
Benin City, Nigeria
Of course it was. The Zulu stopped dead in its tracks a modern British army of 17,000 with three separate victories. Any time the Mahdists faced significant British numbers they lost (Abu Klea, El Teb, Tamai).
You are ignoring the fact of the machine gun being used in those battles. Have you read the descriptions, in European accounts (mostly British) of its effectiveness against troops armed with inferior firearms?

Abu Klea which you mention. . .machine gun.

El Teb consisted of two battles. The Mahdists won the first battle against the Egyptian force. They lost the second to the British force. . .at that second battle there were six machine guns.

Tamai. . .machine guns in use.

Comparing these battles to those Zulu battles where no machine guns were used is just strange to me. There is no similarity in what was faced.


No, I am sorry. You put me is a paradoxical postion here because I quite enjoyed THE RIVER WAR (as a matter of fact, I wrote a paper about the Mahdi in college) and admire the Sudanese, but they did not equal what the Zulu did.
The last time I checked, they fought the British, the Egyptians, and Ethiopians, and they fought for nearly two decades. . .the Zulus fought in one year, and lost as soon as two Gatling guns were brought into play. . .whereas the Sudanese had been fighting against troops with multiple machine guns from the beginning.

And, so what if they did? That degrades the Zulu feat somehow?
This isn't about "degrading" the Zulu feat, but about putting it in perspective, since it seems there's a lot of confusion about what their military prowess really was relative to other African groups.

Again, the Mahdists were mauled every time they faced British troops. Even small numbers of Brits were able to kill thousands of Sudanese.
Please read up on the battles again.

These battles were not anything like most of the Zulu-British battles at all. This is the point I have tried to emphasize already by providing the context about the change in weaponry that occurred.


I will be blunt: it seems you like the Sudandese over the Zulu, and that is fine. The Sudanese are a gret people and it is incredible to think that they were the bane of empires from the Egyptians, through the Persians, Romans, Ethiopians, up through the British.

But no, what they did was just not as viscerally impressive.

It is kind of a strange argument because this thread is explicitly made to address the fact that there were other comparable peoples in Africa. I chose the Ashanti because I thought that the use of muskets compared nicely with the Zulu spear, but we could have done the Sudanese, the Ethiopians under Menelik, Samori Toure, etc.

Why can't it just be a fun celebration of the African fighting man? You say you don't like these head-to-heads, and yet you bring a third party into the conversation for one of your own. If you are not impressed by the Zulu, then why not just participate and pick the Ashanti?
This isn't about liking one over the other. My comments are simply an attempt at bringing what I believe is a factual quality to the discussion. They are not aimed at degrading one group or emphasizing that I like one more than the other. That isn't the point.

About bringing up the Sudanese, that is just one example that I used to ask a simple question, that's all. Why aren't they more renowned (nowadays, not talking of many decades ago) compared to the Zulu when their stand against the British was clearly more impressive?

From what I've gathered over the years, it seems that there just isn't much understanding of the real effect that the introduction of the machine gun into warfare had on British power relative to its opponents in Africa.

They used Gatlin guns at Ulundi, as well as 7 pounders firing cannister.
I am aware of that. That is counted as a forerunner to machine gun rather than outright called a machine gun usually, though I guess classifications may vary according to the author. But anyway, the losses on the Zulu side vs the losses on the British side for Ulundi resemble those of other conflicts of the period where the British used machine guns against opponents that were not as well armed, which lines up with my point. If the British had come into the war using one or two Maxims or Gardners or Nordenfelts or the Gatlings that they used at the end of the Zulu war, we wouldn't even be having this discussion because the Zulu victories would never even have occurred.


They also used Cordite. It is generally accepted that the biggest effect was the use of dum-dum bullets. Regardless, as noted earlier, they killed thousands of Mahdists without machine guns, but needed them to beat the Zulu. So it is an entirely moot point twice over.
This is pretty much completely upside down.

The Maxim wasn't the first machine gun the British used against the Mahdists, it was just the most superior and the final one and the one they used to decisively end the war.

As I said earlier, the Mahdists fought against machine guns from the beginning.

As noted, they can. The British actually needed the Gatlin gun to defeat the Zulu in the field. Not so of the Sudanese. I have cited all relevant battles.
Please re-check your information about the battles. . .

Sorry friend. You are one of the best posters around and DEFINATELY the greatest expert on African history around, but a large part of Chelmsford's idea after Isandlwana was precicely to bring in the machine guns--and artillery.
My point is simply that until the final battle, where two Gatling guns put an end to their streak, the Zulu did not face anything like what the Mahdists, or other Africans who fought against British armies with machine guns did. My point remains unchanged, and the losses of the Zulus at Ulundi compared to the British losses basically reinforces it.
 
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