John Wright’s 1989 Ph.D. thesis undertook a comprehensive re-analysis of the political history of south-east African between the last quarter of the eighteenth-century and the late 1820s. Wright unpacked Alfred Thomas Bryant’s role in propagating what later would become known as the ‘Mfecane’ by critically examining his authoritative 1929 book Olden Times in Zululand and Natal. Wright rejected Bryant’s emphasis on the Zulu kingdom’s role, arguing instead that a series of conflicts took place between numerous polities and that these had gradually intensified over time. The Zulu kingdom’s expansion, he argued, was initially defensive rather than aggressive. Indeed, according to Wright, the Zulu kingdom’s power and influence during the 1820s was much exaggerated in the historical literature. Although Wright acknowledged Julian Cobbing’s critique of the conventional Zulu-centric Mfecane narrative, he reserved judgement until further research could be undertaken. For his sources, Wright drew extensively on the James Stuart Papers and the four published volumes of the James Stuart Archive of Recorded Oral Evidence.
Webb, Colin and John Wright. The James Stuart Archive of Recorded Oral Evidence Relating to the History of the Zulu and Neighbouring Peoples. Volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 1976-1986.
Wright, John. “The Dynamics of Power and Conflict in the Thukela-Mzimkhulu Region of the Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries: A Critical Reconstruction”. Ph.D. thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, 1989.
Wright, John. “Beyond the Concept of the ‘Zulu Explosion’”. In The Mfecane Aftermath: Reconstructive Debates in Southern African History, edited by Hamilton, Carolyn, 107-121. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1995.
Wright, John. “Mfecane debates”. Southern African Review of Books, no. 39/40 (September-December 1995), 18.
Wright, John. “Political Transformations in the Thukela-Mzimkhulu Region in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries”. In The Mfecane Aftermath: Reconstructive Debates in Southern African History, edited by Hamilton, Carolyn, 163-182. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1995.
Wright, John. “Revisiting the stereotype of Shaka’s “devastations””. In Zulu Identities: Being Zulu, Past and Present, edited by Carton, Benedict, John Laband and Jabulani Sithole, 69-81. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2008.
Wright, John. “Turbulent Times: Political Transformations in the North and East, 1760s to 1830s. In The Cambridge History of South Africa volume 1, from Early Times to 1885, edited by Hamilton, Carolyn, Bernard Mbenga and Robert Ross, 211-252. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Online from: 8 Mar 2021