This bibliography provides a list of resources on the Cattle Killing divided into six categories. Certain authors have works listed under multiple categories.

This is an incomplete list, and so public engagement would be much appreciated so as to grow this list. Please send an email to with your contributions.

Colonial documents

The documents produced, collected and archived during colonial times constitute the spine of most historical engagements with the cattle killing. These are vast and are located in different repositories across the world, particularly in South Africa, Britain and Germany. In the research leading up to the production of this online resource, I have encountered three distinct ‘types’ of colonial archival materials.

The first are books, which are often biographical in nature. The two key texts which refer to the cattle killing are by John Aitkins Chalmers, contained within his biography of Reverend Tiyo Soga (1878), and Charles Brownlee’s Reminiscences of Kafir Life and History (1896). Both publications reproduce the same chapter, first edited by Chalmers and containing offerings from significant colonial intellectuals of the time, including Reverend Albert Kropf and Jacob Ludwig Döhne who were from the Berlin Mission Society.

The second type are letters written between colonials. There are a wide array of letters, sometimes between senior colonial figures (like the Maclean-Grey Correspondence, housed in the National Library of South Africa’s ‘Grey Collection’, in Cape Town, South Africa), while others were written by lesser known characters. Significantly, much context can be taken from the letters, and they are useful in further understanding the aims of colonials at the time. 

The third set are legal documents of varous kinds. These include transcripts of the court trials of the chiefs, held in 1858. These can be found in the National Library of South Africa (Cape Town), in BK 80 to 87. It is most useful to read these alongside the letters from the magistrates concerned. It is through such methods that historians like Peires were able to uncover the the way in which judgements in the court trials of the chiefs were predetermined before evidence was even collected. There are also the various ‘depositions’ collected by colonial officers like Gawler at Fort Murray. Most significant is the often-discarded deposition of Nongqawuse. There are also depositions from figures like Mgula (transcribed as “Umgula”), the brother of Nombanda. These are held in ‘Cape Parliamentary Papers’ (CPP’s) at the South African Library.


Chalmers, J.A. Tiyo Soga Tiyo Soga: A Page of South African Mission Work. Edinburgh: Elioit, 1878. 

Brownlee, C. Reminiscences of Kaffir Life and History and other papers by the late Hon. Charles Brownlee, Gaika Commissioner, with a Brief Memoir by Mrs. Brownlee. Lovedale: Lovedale Mission Press, 1896.                                                  


Grey-Maclean correspondence, Grey Collection, National Library of South Africa, Cape Town.


BK 81-86: Transcripts of court trials of chiefs, National Library of South Africa, Cape Town. These include:

Magistrate with ‘Umhala’ (Gawler). BK 81. 

Magistrate with ‘Macomo’ (Lucas). BK 82.

Magistrate with ‘Pato’ (Vigne). BK 83.

Magistrate with ‘Anta’ (Robertson). BK 85.

Magistrate with ‘Kama’ (Reeve). BK 86. 

The Cape Parliamentary Papers of interest include: 

‘Proceedings and findings of the court…and sentence…upon Macomo and other Kafirs’. G 4 of 1858. Cape Parliamentary Papers.

‘Papers indicating the Nature of the Plans formed by the Kafir Chiefs’. 5 of 1858. Cape Parliamentary Papers.


‘Examination of the Kaffir Prophetess ‘Nonqause’ before Major Gawler’ (27 April 1858). GH 8/35 Schedule 69 of 1858, Enclosure 2, 284-285. Western Cape Archives and Record Service (Cape Town, South Africa).

The endurance of W.W. Gqoba

While the earliest written materials on the cattle killing were produced and protected by colonials – both military and missionary – it did not take long for amaXhosa intellectuals to enter the fray. Most notable of these was William Wellington Gqoba, who was about 16 years old at the time of the cattle killing. By 1888, Gqoba had risen to the position of editor of the isiXhosa newspaper Isigidimi SamaXosa, an isiXhosa language newspaper published from the Lovedale Press. While it is often argued that the converted amaXhosa who resided and worked at mission stations were allied to colonials, or existed in a liminal space between tradition and modernity (or westernisation, or coloniality), we can see in the pages of Isigidimi just how intellectually belligerent these intellectuals could be. Taking up the history from Chalmers, Gqoba used his position at Isigidimi to produce a two-part contribution to the history of the cattle-killing, entitled ‘Isizatu sokuxelwa kwe nkomo ngo Nongqause’. Gqoba’s text did two important things. First, it sparked debate about the history, disallowing Chalmers’ narrative from becoming the single story of the event. Second, it became an enduring isiXhosa counter-history to the narrative popularised by colonials. Gqoba passed away soon after his two-part contribution, but his legacy endures.

Soon after Gqoba published his piece, responses came through. The most significant were from William Mbali Philip, a respected Mfengu intellectual based at St Andrews College in what was then Grahamstown (now Makanda), and from Charles Brownlee himself. While it is rare that this debate is dealt with, it has been translated in full by Helen Bradford and Msokoli Qotole.

The first part of Gqoba’s contribution (which is narrative, while the second part is more critical) has been reworked various times. Most notably, it was abridged by Walter Benson Rubusana and included in his publication, Zemk’ Inkomo Magwalandini. About half a century later, A.C. Jordan translated Rubusana’s abridgement in a series of articles in the periodical Africa South, and was posthumously included in the compilation Towards an African Literature. Both parts of the contribution have been translated into English by Jeff Opland, Wandile Kuse and Pamela Maseko in the first volume of the Opland Collection which centres on W.W. Gqoba.

Bradford, H. and Qotole, M. ‘Ingxoxo enkulu ngoNongqawuse (A Great Debate about Nongqawuse’s Era)’. Kronos Vol. 34, No.1 (2008), 66-105.

Gqoba, W.W., ‘Isizatu sokuxelwa kwe nkomo ngo Nongqause’. Isigidimi SamaXosa. Lovedale, 1 March and 2 April 1888.

Gqoba, W.W., ‘Isizatu sokuxelwa kwe nkomo ngo Nongqause (The motive for the Nongqawuse cattle killing)’, in Opland J., Maseko, P., Kuse, W. (eds.), William Wellington Gqoba, Isizwe Esinembali, Xhosa Histories and Poetry (1873-1888). Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2015, 460-483.

Jordan, A.C., ‘The Tale of Nongqawuse’, Towards an African Literature. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1973, 69-75.Rubusana, W.B. and Satyo, S.C. (ed.), ‘Isizathu sokuxhelwa kweenkomo ngoNongqawuse’, Zemk’ Inkomo Magwalandini. Claremont: New Africa Books, 2002, 139-141.

Rubusana, W.B. and Satyo, S.C. (ed.), ‘Isizathu sokuxhelwa kweenkomo ngoNongqawuse’, Zemk’ Inkomo Magwalandini. Claremont: New Africa Books, 2002, 139-141.

Academic articles, chapters, books, and theses

It took some time for the story of the cattle killing to enter academic historiography. In the time of Gqoba (the late nineteenth century), Black people were not admitted into universities in southern Africa. By the time A.C. Jordan was writing in the 1960s, however, there was a burgeoning class of black and white intellectuals interested in the event. 

Perhaps the most significant figure in the modern historicisation of the cattle killing is Jeff Peires. His work spans decades, but culminated in the (very politically risky) 1989 publication of The Dead Will Arise. The book still stands as the most thorough history of the event, despite being met with various levels of critique. Nevertheless, it is from Peires that we see a spark in academic circles which ignited great public interest and access to information about the the cattle killing. Peires’s bibliography stands as a roadmap for accessing further information on the event. 

Enormous studies, like those of Helen Bradford, Jennifer Wenzel and Sheila Boniface-Davies emerged in the wake of Peires’s publication of The Dead Will Arise, and have successfully critiqued and built upon his foundations.

Further studies have been made into the time and region of the cattle killing, like the explorations of lungsickness by Chris Andreas, or the discussions on the concept of ‘millenarianism’ in the work of Andrew Offenburger, David Attwell, and Russel Viljoen.

Offerings, too, have been made by figures like G.T. Sirayi, who took on the work of J.J.R. Jolobe to argue for a Xhosa perspective on the cattle killing.

Another is Jeff Opland, who collected various isiXhosa literary works and took a profound interest in izibongo and other isiXhosa oral forms. It is through the Opland Collection of of Xhosa Literature which we can access many of the authors who wrote about the cattle killing, including volumes dedicated to the work of D.L.P. Yali-Manisi (2015), W.W. Gqoba (2015), and S.E.K. Mqhayi (2017).

Adas, M. Prophets of Rebellion. Millenarian Protest Movements against the European Colonial Order. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979.

Andreas, C. ‘The Spread and Impact of the Lungsickness Epizootic of 1853-57 in the Cape Colony and the Xhosa Chiefdoms’, South African Historical Journal Vol. 53 (2005) Issue 1: Special Issue: Environmental History, 50-72.

Andreas, C. ‘Preventative Inoculation of Cattle against Lungsickness in the Cape: Informal Technology Transfer and Local Knowledge Production in the Nineteenth Century’, South African Historical Journal, Vol. 71 (2019) Issue 4, 536-559.

Ashforth, A. ‘The Xhosa Cattle Killing and the Politics of Memory’, Sociological Forum, Vol. 6, No. 3 (Sept. 1991), 581-592.

Atwell, D. ‘Reprisals of Modernity in Black South African ‘Mission’ Writing’, Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2 (June 1999), 267-285.

Boniface-Davies, S. ‘Raising the Dead: The Xhosa Cattle-Killing and the Mhlakaza-Goliat Delusion’, Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 33, No. 1 (March 2007), 19-41.

Boniface Davies, S. ‘History in the literary imagination, the telling of Nongqawuse and the Xhosa Cattle-Killing in South African Literature and Culture (1891-1937)’. PhD thesis. University of Cambridge, 2010. 

Bradford, H. ‘Women, Gender and Colonialism: Rethinking the History of the British Cape Colony and its Frontier Zones, c. 1806-70’, The Journal of African History 27 (3) (1996), 351-370. 

Bradford, H. Through Gendered Eyes: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa Cattle-killing, Department of History and Institute for Historical Research. University of the Western Cape, 2001.

Bradford, H. ‘Framing African women: visionaries in southern Africa and their photographic afterlife, 1850 – 2004’, Kronos Vol. 30 No. 1 (2004), 70-93.  

Bradford, H. ‘Not a Nongqawuse story: An anti-heroine in historical perspective’ in Nomboniso Gasa (ed.), Women in South African History, Basus’iimbokodo, Bawel’imilambo/They remove boulders and cross rivers. Cape Town: HSRC Press, 2007.

Bradford, H. ‘Akukho Ntaka Inokubhabha Ngephiko Elinye (No Bird Can Fly on One Wing): The ‘Cattle-Killing Delusion’ and Black Intellectuals, c1840-1910’, African Studies 67:2 (2008), 209-232.

Figes, O. The Crimean War: A History. London: Picador, 2012.

Laband, J. The Land Wars: The Dispossession of the Khoisan and AmaXhosa in the Cape Colony. Johannesburg: Penguin Random House, 2020.

Lalu, P. The Deaths of Hinsta. Postapartheid South Africa and the Shape of Recurring Pasts. Cape Town: HSRC Press, 2009.

Le Cordeur, B.A. and Saunders, C.C. The War of the Axe, 1847: Correspondence Between the Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Henry Pottinger, and the Commander of the British Forces at the Cape, Sir George Berkeley, and Others. Brendthurst Press, 1981.

Offenburger, A. ‘The Xhosa Cattle-Killing Movement in History and Literature’, History Compass 7/6 (2009), 1428-1443.

Offenburger, A. ‘Millenarianism in Iowa and the Eastern Cape: Thinking through Field of Dreams and the Xhosa Cattle-Killing Movement’, English Studies in Africa (2018) 61:1, 27-39.

Peires, J.B. ‘Nxele, Ntsikana and the Origins of the Xhosa Religious Reaction’, The Journal of African History Vol. 2 No. 1 (1979), 51-61.

Peires, J.B. The House Of Phalo. Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1981. 

Peires, J.B. ‘Sir George Grey versus the Kaffir Relief Committee’, Journal of Southern African Studies Vol. 10 No. 2 (April 1984), 145-169.

Peires, J.B., ‘‘Soft’ Believers and ‘Hard’ Unbelievers in the Xhosa Cattle-Killing’, The Journal of African History Vol. 27 No. 3 (1986), 443-461.

Peires, J.B., The Dead Will Arise: Nongqawuse and the Great Xhosa Cattle-Killing of 1856-7. Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1989.

Sirayi, G.T. ‘The African perspective of the 1856/7 cattle-killing movement’, South African Journal of African Languages 11:1 (1991), 40-45.

Stapleton, T.J., ‘‘They No Longer Care for Their Chiefs’: Another Look at the Xhosa Cattle-Killing of 1856-1867’, The International Journal of African Historical Studies Vol. 24 No. 2 (1991), 383, 392.

Stapleton, T.J. ‘Reluctant Slaughter: Rethinking Maqoma’s Role in the Xhosa Cattle-Killing (1853-1857), The International Journal of African Historical Studies Vol. 26 No. 2 (1993), 345-369.

Viljoen, R. ‘Making sense of the Khoikhoi Cattle-Killing of 1788: An Episode of Millenarianism in Khoikhoi Society’, Kronos, No. 24 (November 1997), 62-76.

Wells, J.C. The Return of Makhanda: Exploring the Legend. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2012.  

Wenzel, J. ‘The Problem of Metaphor: Tropic Logic in Cattle-Killing Prophecies and their Afterlives’. African Studies, 27: 2 (2008), 143-158.

Wenzel, J. Bulletproof. Afterlives of Anticolonial Prophecy in South Africa and Beyond. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2009.Zarwan, J. ‘The Xhosa Cattle Killings, 1856-7’, Cahiers d’etudes africaines Vol. 16 No. 63-64 (1976), 519-539.

Poetry and izibongo

There have been a significant number of izibongo and other poetic forms produced about the cattle killing. Two are most notable: ‘Ingqawule’ by J.J.R. Jolobe, contained within his 1959 publication Ilitha; and ‘Ingxaki eyasenzakalisayo’ by D.L.P. Yali-Manisi, which was orated at the request of Jeff Opland in 1970. It was transcribed, translated and published in Opland’s second volume in his Collection of isiXhosa literature. Importantly, the two pieces are of different genres. Jolobe was revered as a great innovator with poetic forms, bridging the Western and isiXhosa traditional forms. Yali-Manisi could be taken as a more traditional imbongi, who, while an artist, served a professional role in amaXhosa society as an archivist of oral histories. Indeed, the imbongi (like the historian) exists between ‘doing history’ and the imaginative creativity of constructing a narrative.

Jolobe, J.J.R. “Ingqawule” in Ilitha. South Africa: Perskor, 1959.                                                    

Mqhayi, S.E.K. ‘U-Nongqause’, in Jeff Opland (ed.) Abantu Besizwe: Historical and Biographical Writings, 1902–1944. Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 2009, 74-84.

Yali-Manisi, D.L.P., ‘Ingxaki eyasenzakalisayo (The problem that wrought our destruction)’, in Jeff Opland and Pamela Maseko (eds.), Iimbali Zamanyange (Historical Poems). Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2015, 204-213.

Creative representations

There have been a variety of creative representations of the event. Most famous of these are perhaps H.I.E. Dhlomo’s ‘The Girl Who Killed to Save’, which was produced in 1937, and Zakes Mda’s novel Heart of Redness, published in 2000.

Mda, Z., Heart of Redness. New York: Picador, 2000.

Dhlomo, H.I.E., The Girl Who Killed to Save (play), in Tim Couzens and Nick Visser (eds.), The Collected Works of H.I.E. Dhlomo. Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1985.

Wenzel, J., Voices of Spectral and Textual Ancestors: Reading Tiyo Soga alongside H.I.E. Dhlomo’s ‘The Girl Who Killed to Save’’, Research in African Literatures, Vol. 36, No.1 (Spring, 2005), 51-73.

Magatyana, B. ‘Nongqawuse’ (Xhosa folklore song). Performed by the Gauteng Choristers, 21 March 2015. Accessible at: Performed by the University of Johannesburg Choir at Varsity Sing 2016 aired on Kyknet. Accessible at:

Political rhetoric

Zille, H. Several tweets. See Unathi Nkanjeni, ‘Zille slated for comparing lockdown with Nongqawuse and the Great Cattle Killing, Times Live, 19 May 2020. Accessible at:

Mbembe, A. ‘South Africa’s Second Coming: The Nongqawuse Syndrome’. Originally published in the Sunday Times, 14 June 2006. Accessible at: Also at:


Presentation prepared by Himal Ramji for FHYA in 2021. Produced by Vanessa Chen. Bibliographic support by Henry Fagan. Editorial assistance from Carolyn Hamilton.

Online from: 27 Jul 2022

Revision history

Edited at 2022-08-01 10:31:44 by Henry Fagan
Edited at 2022-07-27 15:11:36 by Henry Fagan
Edited at 2022-07-27 15:10:16 by Henry Fagan
Edited at 2022-07-27 15:09:38 by Henry Fagan