Mfecane, noun

Forms:
Also with small initial.
Origin:
Xhosa, SothoShow more Adaptation of Xhosa iimfecane marauders (singular imfecane), perhaps adaptation of Sotho difaqane, see difaqane.
historical
The Mfecane: The large-scale dispersal of groups of northern Nguni people during the early 19th century to the south, north, and west of present-day KwaZulu-Natal, which led to the displacement or impoverishment of neighbouring people; the resultant wars and battles; the period during which this upheaval took place; difaqane; Fetcani sense 2; Imfecane sense 2. Also attributive.
Note:
The Mfecane has usually been attributed to there having been insufficient land to accommodate the Zulu nation (which its leader, Shaka, was forcibly consolidating at the time), so that certain groups, unable to defend themselves against his large regiments and innovative strategies, but unwilling to accept him as their ruler, were forced to move away. Latterly, however, this interpretation has been challenged by scholars who note that the political consolidation of groups in Natal was influenced by environmental factors such as drought, and by the increased ivory and cattle trade with Portuguese traders (see quotation 1990).
1928 E.A. Walker Hist. of S. Afr. 226Moshesh’s claims were wide. Northward they embraced a large belt of territory right across to the Vaal on the ground that the remains of the tribes which occupied it before the Mfecane were now under his rule in Basutoland awaiting an opportunity to reoccupy it.
1966 J.D. Omer-Cooper Zulu Aftermath 172Probably the most striking political change brought about by the Mfecane is the change from the small clan-based tribe to the large kingdom uniting peoples of diverse tribal origin.
1977 T.R.H. Davenport S. Afr.: Mod. Hist. 10Known in Sotho as the Difaqane (‘hammering’), and in Nguni languages as the Mfecane (‘crushing’..) it was a cataclysmic event...The Mfecane scattered African chiefdoms in fragments across half the continent of Africa.
1980 J. Cock Maids & Madams 201The Mfecane or dispersal of the African tribes westwards by the rising Zulu tribe..provided the Cape with significant numbers of black agricultural and domestic servants.
1981 J.B. Peires House of Phalo 85War [between Thembu and Xhosa] was avoided only by the need to join forces against the Mfecane invaders.
1981 J.B. Peires House of Phalo 138The wars of the Mfecane, in which people like the Bhaca fought for the sustenance of life itself were appreciably bloodier.
1988 NELM News (Nat. Eng. Lit. Museum) MayMany historians hold that the Boer migration was a marginal affair in comparison with the vast upheavals in the demography of the indigenous population produced by the Mfecane.
1989 Reader’s Digest Illust. Hist. of S. Afr. 88Shaka was one of the principal players in the drama of the Mfecane, an upheaval among the Nguni people of South-eastern Africa that rippled its way north, west and eastwards as displaced groups fought for the land on which they could graze their cattle and grow their crops.
1990 Weekly Mail 8 June 5The argument presented is that the mfecane was a social revolution in Southern Africa, leading to the creation of new states, which was set off by the Zulu king Shaka, in a bid to seize control over a limited amount of resources in the context of an increasing population. Articles over the past five years..have challenged this interpretation and referred to the mfecane as a colonial myth...The slave trade at Delgoa Bay and the labour demands from the Cape Colony..led to the subsequent upheavals.
1992 N. Mostert in Natal Mercury 25 Nov. 8Conventional history attributed the entire military and social revolution to the rise of Shaka and gave a name to it, mfecane, ‘the crushing’. It was seen as virtually one seamless event, which modern research disputes.
The large-scale dispersal of groups of northern Nguni people during the early 19th century to the south, north, and west of present-day KwaZulu-Natal, which led to the displacement or impoverishment of neighbouring people; the resultant wars and battles; the period during which this upheaval took place; difaqane; Fetcani2; Imfecane2. Also attributive.

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19281992