Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Joseph Hodge

Committee Co-Chair

Katherine Aaslestad

Committee Member

Robert Maxon

Committee Member

Tamba Mbayo

Committee Member

Timothy Stapleton


This dissertation establishes an understanding of how the defensive institutions of the colony of Natal were formed in the context of the emerging British Empire in Southern Africa during the mid-nineteenth century, the parameters of their organization, and their contributions and influences to the institutions which characterized Natal as a colonial state. Paying particular attention to the organization of colonial defence, including the complexities of African contributions to colonial rule and white solutions to questions of security and defence in the emerging colonial state of Natal, a clearer picture of the manner in which Natal defined itself and its place in Southern Africa will be revealed. To accomplish this, particular attention is paid to the structures created during what I have called the "formative period" of the colony; from the Cape Colony's declaring the district of Natal a British territory in May 1844 to the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. These defensive and military institutions will be revealed as an important pillar in Natal's overall defensive and social structures. These interacting structures of state formation, or "web of structures", illustrate the importance of Natal's creation as a colonial state. Focus is placed on four areas of colonial defence, which evolved over this formative period and helped defined Natal's creation. These include the white volunteer military organization, known collectively as the Volunteer Corps, the European police institutions, paying particular attention to the Natal Mounted Police, the African police constabulary, which worked sometimes in conjunction with and sometimes autonomous from their European counterparts, and finally the Africans who provided a direct military contribution to the colony's defence, or as I have titled them, simply "African military units". All of these organizations acted within the colonial government in one form or another and existed throughout the formative period of the colony. None were part of Her Majesty's formal military forces, and all were almost exclusively composed of residents of Natal, both white and black. The purpose of this limited scope is twofold. It provides an avenue of focus that moves beyond simple regimental histories and gives greater attention to the lives and events of those who took part in colonial defence. Also, by excluding the British Imperial troops, it is easier to strike a balance between both European and African defensive institutions within the colony of Natal. In doing so, my research reinforces the notion that colonial defence was truly a universal concern that included both white and black segments of Natal's society. By focusing on these institutions, tenets of state formation should be recognized, at the same time illustrating the fluid or even amorphous nature of Natal's early development as a colonial state.