Elizabeth Eldredge: Sources of Conflict in Southern Africa

In an article based on a conference paper, later also published as a chapter the The Mfecane Aftermath: Reconstructive Debates in Southern African History, Elizabeth Eldredge launched a critical overview of Cobbing’s ‘alibi’ argument. Eldredge criticised Cobbing for developing an erroneous timeline and for exaggerating the slave trade’s scale in the absence of any substantiating data. Having closely examined the evidence, she concluded that the Delagoa Bay slave trade had peaked too late to have initiated the Mfecane.  Eldredge was less critical of Cobbing’s claims of slavery across the Cape Colony frontier, acknowledging that Griqua raiders, frequently armed by white frontiersman, had indeed conducted slaving. Eldredge also accepted that the Zulu kingdom had wrongly been accredited responsibility for the disturbances these slave raids had caused. On the other hand, Eldredge firmly rejected Cobbing’s assertion that a missionary presence was directly involved in orchestrating slave raids in the interior. These claims were based on highly speculative evidence, whereas Cobbing had ignored African oral evidence to the contrary. The conflicts fought between African groups, Eldredge argued, were more likely cause by an interplay of environmental crises and increasing inequalities within and between groups.

Relevant Works

Cobbing, Julian. “The Mfecane as Alibi: Thoughts on Dithakong and Mbolompo”. The Journal of African History 29, no. 3 (1988), 487-519.

Eldredge, Elizabeth. Slave Raiding Across the Cape Frontier. Milton: Routledge, 1994.

Eldredge, Elizabeth. “Sources of Conflict in Southern Africa c. 1800-1830: The ‘Mfecane’ Reconsidered”. In The Mfecane Aftermath: Reconstructive Debates in Southern African History, edited by Carolyn Hamilton, 123-162. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1995.

Eldredge, Elizabeth and Fred Morton. Editors. Slavery in South Africa: Captive Labor on the Dutch Frontier. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1994


Online from: 16 Jul 2021