David Rattray: Historian of the Anglo-Zulu War (obit.)

Historians in the News

David Rattray, historian and tour guide: born Johannesburg, South Africa 6 September 1958; married (three sons); died Rorke's Drift, South Africa 26 January 2007.

David Rattray, the pre-eminent historian of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, was shot dead on Friday in his Zululand home in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, apparently by assailants drawn from the people he loved so dearly. [The Telegraph reported: "South African police were searching the home of David Rattray yesterday after the leading historian of the Anglo-Zulu war fell victim to what friends suspect was a grudge killing. Nothing was stolen when Mr Rattray, 48, was shot dead inside his homestead...The intruders did not harm his wife, Nicky, 44, nor any of the domestic staff who were on the premises at the time."]

A gentle man on a personal level, Rattray was an extraordinary raconteur and orator. His dramatic accounts of the Anglo-Zulu War and especially the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift, the sites of which are just kilometres from his travel lodge, Fugitives' Drift, drew more than 60,000 visitors, including the Prince of Wales (who became a close friend) and - at last count - 94 British generals and four field-marshals.

Rattray was a regular guest at the Royal Geographical Society in London where his annual lectures, held over three days, were always sold out. His mesmerising accounts, which would leave even the most august and stiff-upper-lipped audience moist-eyed, drew on a deep passion for South Africa and for the Zulu people among whom he had grown up and whose language he spoke impeccably. He was a Fellow of the society and in 1999 received its Ness Award for broadening understanding of Zulu culture...

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