British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli's Tory administration in London did not want a war with the Zulus, seeing problems in eastern Europe and India as more pressing.
However, Sir Bartle Frere governor and high commissioner of the Cape Colony had been given a brief of creating a Confederation of South Africa from the various British colonies, Boer Republics and native states.
He had concluded that the powerful Zulu kingdom stood in the way of this, In December 1878, an ultimatum was presented to King Cetshwayo that he disband his Zulu army accept a British resident, which was rejected.
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The war lasted less than six months from January 1879. It resulted in the British Empire's annexation of the Zulu kingdom.