“THE DIRECTION OF THE WHOLE OF THE FORCES AVAILABLE”: THE DISPUTED SPHERES OF MILITARY AND CIVIL AUTHORITY IN THE EASTERN CAPE (1877– 1878), NATAL (1879) AND ZULULAND (1888)

John Laband

Abstract


In the late Victorian British Empire, the spheres of authority of the civil and
military powers were not unequivocally defined, and could lead to wrangles that
threatened the efficient conduct of military operations. Three such disputes occurred
in southern Africa between 1878 and 1888. In 1878, during the 9th Cape Frontier
War, the high commissioner replaced the Cape ministry with a more compliant one
to assert control over both the imperial and colonial forces engaged. During the
Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, the lieutenant-governor of Natal disputed the right of the
general officer commanding to deploy African levies raised and stationed in Natal
along the Zululand border. In 1888, during the uSuthu Rebellion in Zululand, the
governor interfered with the general’s military arrangements because he believed
these arrangements affected his civil powers. To head off future disputes of this
nature, the British government ruled in 1879 that the commander in the field always
had to exercise full control over active operations, and in 1888 finally clarified in
which circumstances the general in command assumed operational authority over
both the colonial and imperial troops stationed in a colony.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5787/41-2-1068

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Copyright (c) 2018 John Laband


ISSN 2224-0020 (online); ISSN 1022-8136 (print)

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