Kavod on the Road: The Jew Who Would Be King
Join Dr. Adam Rovner as he tells the story of the Jew Who Would Be King. This improbable story of one of the nineteenth-century’s most intrepid and controversial explorers, Nathaniel
Join Dr. Adam Rovner as he tells the story of the Jew Who Would Be King. This improbable story of one of the nineteenth-century’s most intrepid and controversial explorers, Nathaniel Isaacs, a British Jew who helped the legendary King Shaka establish the Zulu nation. Isaacs was an English merchant, adventurer, and author who published a celebrated account of his shipwreck and survival among the Zulu in “Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa” (1836). Isaacs’ two-volumes provided readers with the first eyewitness account of the legendary warrior-king Shaka and of life in the Zulu Kingdom. Much of what we know—or think we know—about Shaka still derives from Travels and Adventures. The teenaged Isaacs bravely fought for Shaka against the King’s rivals, was injured in battle, and was later awarded a chieftaincy and a grant of land by the Zulu leader. Today we may find it ironic that a European Jewish writer invented the myth of Shaka Zulu, a Black African icon, but in the Victorian era the connection would have made perfect sense. The prevailing pseudoscience of the time concluded that Jews and Africans shared the same imagined racial essence. And Isaacs found himself propelled to the furthest reaches of Empire precisely because he had been born a poor Jew in England with few opportunities for advancement.
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