Shaka Zulu, also known as Shaka kaSenzangakhona, was the most influential leader in the Zulu Kingdom. Shaka was the first son of the chieftain Senzangakhona and Nandi, a daughter of Bhebhe, the past chief of the Elangeni tribe, born near present day Melmoth, KwaZulu-Natal Province. In his early days, Shaka served as a warrior under the sway of local chieftain Dingiswayo and the Mthethwaa, to whom the Zulu were then paying tribute. Shaka granted permission to Europeans to enter Zulu territory on rare occasions. Henry Francis Fynn provided medical treatment to the king after an assassination attempt from a rival tribe member hidden in a crowd. To show his gratitude, Shaka permitted European settlers to enter and operate in the Zulu kingdom. This would open the door for future British incursions into the Zulu kingdom that were not so peaceful. Shaka observed several demonstrations of European technology and knowledge, but held that the Zulu way was superior to that of the foreigners. On the death of Senzangakona, Dingiswayo aided Shaka to defeat his brother and assume leadership. Shaka began to further refine the ibutho system used by Dingiswayo and others and with Mthethwa's support over the next several years, forged alliances with his smaller neighbors, to counter the growing threat from Ndwandwe raiding from the north. The initial Zulu manoeuvres were primarily defensive in nature, as Shaka preferred to intervene or apply pressure diplomatically, aided by occasional judicious assassinations. His changes to local society built on existing structures. Although he preferred social and propagandistic political methods, he also engaged in a number of battles, as the Zulu sources make clear. Young boys aged six and over joined Shaka's force as apprentice warriors and served as carriers of rations, supplies like cooking pots and sleeping mats, and extra weapons until they joined the main ranks. It is sometimes held that such support was used...
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