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Scholarship on the South African kingdom of the Ndebele of Zimbabwe which was promising in the 1960s and 1970s was overtaken and overshadowed by research into Shona history in the 1980s. Since then no major study has appeared on Ndebele pre-colonial history and this book is the first of its kind to delve deeper into pertinent issues of state formation, nation-building, style of governance, hegemony, memory and the idea of a Ndebele 'nation' rather than a 'tribe'. A richly nuanced historical portrait of the pre-colonial Ndebele political and social life is provided. The book is at once a major historical reconstruction of an African pre-colonial society, engaging with key hegemonic and ideological issues while at the same time contextualizing all this in a broad historiography and critical social theory in the period from the nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. This book makes a bold challenge to the mythology of Ndebele `exceptionalism' that was used by colonialists to justify their colonial mission.