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The Fall of Rorke's Drift (Hardback)

An Alternate History of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879

Colour Books Military > Greenhill Books > Greenhill: Anglo-Zulu War Military > Pre-WWI > Anglo-Zulu Wars

By John Laband, Foreword by Ian Knight
Greenhill Books
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 30
ISBN: 9781784383732
Published: 4th September 2019


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'John Laband has long been the accepted authority on Anglo-Zulu War studies and his new work, The Fall of Rorke’s Drift, is proof of his expertise.' - Dr Adrian Greaves

The defence of Rorke’s Drift inspired Victorian Britain and has featured in a classic movie and numerous historical works – it is still remembered as an iconic British triumph in adversity. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the successful defenders.

But what if the Zulus had defeated the British at Rorke’s Drift? Would the Zulus have gone on to invade and devastate Natal? How would Britain’s other potential adversaries in the region, the Boers, have reacted, and with what effects on the future history of the British Empire and of southern Africa?

In this first ever alternate history of the Anglo-Zulu War, Professor John Laband asks – and answers – just these questions. Drawing on his vast knowledge of the period, he turns history on its head and offers a tantalising glimpse of a very different outcome, weaving a compelling narrative story of what could have been.

Review by Roger T. Stearn

It will give hours of stimulating pleasure to Anglo-Zulu War enthusiasts.

Journal of the Victorian Military Society

As featured by

The Institution or Royal Engineers

This book gives a insight into the scenario of what could have been.


I am always happy to read accounts of the defence of Rorle's Drift as Zulu remains one of my all-time favourite films. What struck me, in the case of John's new book, was the revelation that Gonwille Bromhead, played to perfection by Michael Caine in the film, died in the battle - I had always thought that he survived. So this terrific book goes to prove that you really do learn something new every day!

Books Monthly

The Battle of Rorke’s Drift was an improbable victory at a time when a victory was urgently required. The author has provided a stimulating and fresh review of the conditions applying during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 – Highly Recommended.

Read the full review here


I don't want to spoil the plot for you but I do recommend this absorbing book; I found that it enhanced my understanding of the real events. A Jolly good ripping yarn, get someone to buy it for your Christmas stocking, please, you will not be disappointed. Remember that most battles are close run things, look at Dunkirk, Waterloo and Agincourt, history can turn on a tanner and this book has some validity therefore.

Read the full review here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

Victorian War fans will devour THE FALL OF RORKE'S DRIFT Professor John Laband turns history on its head in this compelling read!

NetGalley, Kelly Watley

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The title really does say it all what would have happened if Rocks Drift had fallen ? How much of history would have been changed. How would this have have affected High Commissioner Frere's and Lord Chelmsford's Zulu campaign what would have been the consequences of the 1879 war all are are addressed in this fascinating and very convincing book.

Historian John Laband deserves great praise for a wonderfully detailed and thought provoking account of what may have happened if Rorke's Drift had fallen to the Zulu army.

I would definitely recommend this if you have a interest in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, to these who enjoy philosophising over alternative history and to these who enjoy reading alternate history books you won't be disappointed.

NetGalley, S Ballinger

This is a very good construction of alternative history pivoting on the fall of Rorke’s Drift rather than its survival. Whilst the details of how the defence of a defeated Rorke’s Drift evolved are of course conjecture, the author has used his considerable knowledge of the subject to interpret the conduct of the battle and the topography that helped decide the real outcome, the turn it to his alternative history. Of course the battle alone is not the whole story, but examines the impact on strategic planning and how the British might have reacted to such a defeat, and indeed the wider impact on the development of pan South African events in the late 19th Century. A good read.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy
 John Laband

About John Laband

John Laband is Professor Emeritus of History at Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada, is a Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University, England, and a Research Associate at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. His books include The Rise and Full of the Zulu Nation (1997); The Atlas of the Later Zulu Wars (2002); The Transvaal Rebellion: The First Boer War (2005); Kingdom in Crisis: the Zulu Response to the British Invasion of 1879 (2007); the Historical Dictionary of the Zulu Wars (2009; Zulu Warriors: The Battle for the South African Frontier (2014); and The Eight Zulu Kings (2018).

About Ian Knight

Ian Knight is internationally recognised as a leading authority on the Anglo-Zulu War. He has contributed to numerous TV documentaries on the subject, including the BBC’s Timewatch and Channel 4’s Secrets of the Dead. In 2000, he was the historian attached to the archaeological dig at the Isandlwana battlefield. He has written and co-written numerous books on the subject, including The Anatomy of the Zulu ArmyBrave Men's BloodThe National Army Museum Book of the Zulu War, Zulu Rising and Who's Who in the Zulu War. He is a recipient of the Anglo-Zulu War Historical Society’s Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Award for a lifetime’s achievement in the field.

Perfect Partner

In the Shadow of Isandlwana The Life and Times of General Lord Chelmsford and his Disaster in Zululand (Hardback)

“Lord Chelmsford is not a bad man. He is industrious and conscientious so far as his lights guide him. But nature has refused to him the qualities of a great captain. He has suffered much and is entitled to certain commiseration.” – Thomas Gibson Bowles, Vanity Fair General Lord Chelmsford’s military career took him around the world; he served in the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny and the Abyssinian Expedition, before commanding the British invasion of the Zulu Kingdom in South Africa. In January 1879, disaster struck when Chelmsford divided his forces at Isandlwana in the face of the…

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