Climate and the Mfecane

The mfecane is thought to be a massive upheaval and devastation of Nguni tribal chiefdoms in the second decade of the 19th century in what is now KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape of South Africa. We show that pervasive cycles of drought and cold periods in southern Africa are significantly amplified and extended by volcanic eruptions and that, in particular, the eruption of Tambora in 1815 triggered a prolonged and extreme climatic event which bears all of the characteristics ascribed to the mfecane.