A TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT? NINETEENTH-CENTURY CONTESTS FOR LAND IN SOUTH AFRICA'S CALEDON VALLEY AND THE INVENTION OF THE MFECANE
The unresolved debate on the mfecane in southern African history has been marked by general acceptance of the proposition that large-scale loss of life and disruption of settled society was experienced across the whole region. Attempts to quantify either the violence or mortality have been stymied by a lack of evidence. What apparently reliable evidence does exist describes small districts, most notably the Caledon Valley. In contrast to Julian Cobbing, who called the mfecane an alibi for colonial-sponsored violence, this article argues that much documentation of conflict in the Caledon region consisted of various ‘alibis’ for African land seizures and claims in the 1840s and 1850s.
Key Words: Precolonial; Lesotho; South Africa; land; violence; historiography.