‘Zulu’ and the end of Empire

Historian article

By Nicolas Kinloch, published 20th August 2021

‘Zulu’ (1964) and the end of Empire

In this article, Nicolas Kinloch examines the 1964 film Zulu. He suggests what it might tell us about the reality of the British Empire and asks if it has anything to say about the era in which the film was made.

One of the most successful British films of 1964 was Zulu, which starred Stanley Baker and a very young Michael Caine. The film was a recreation of the battle of Rorke’s Drift, which took place in January 1879 during the first phase of the Anglo-Zulu war. The film was directed by the American Cy Enfield, and was mostly filmed in South Africa, at that time an apartheid state: Nelson Mandela would be sentenced to life imprisonment there later that year. Although it is inconceivable that such a film could be made nowadays, it nonetheless poses some interesting historical questions...

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