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South African History Research Guide

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Zulu Oral History Sources


The James Stuart Archive: This is a series of five volumes (we have three in our library) of notes and transcripts from interviews with old men (mostly) who grew up in the old Zulu state in the 1800s. This is one of the most extensive oral history collections we have of a pre-colonial African state. It is very interesting for that reason, but also hard to read as these interviewees grew up in a very different culture than what we live in today. Although there are a few sections that strike us as more or less clearly factual, for most of it we have to do a lot of interpretation. It's hard to give advice here. My experience was just to dive in and see what I found. You can read my article on the syllabus to get a sense of how to approach the James Stuart Archive and Elizabeth Eldredge's article for some information about the turmoil that faced (and contributed to the creation of) the Zulu state in the 19th century.

Callaway's Zulu Nursery Tales: The stories collected by Canon Callaway in the 1860s are available in the library and in full on Google Books ( ). You should note that Callaway himself was a missionary and somewhat of a scholar of fairy tales. His goal is to record the tales and then put them in context with more universal fairy tale themes and genres (so in the footnotes he is always making comparisons to other fairy tale traditions). Although he has his own interests, I take the tales to be fairly accurate renditions of Zulu tales, in part because they are so hard to read. Had Callaway edited them they would probably seem more familiar.