Paul Singer Thompson (1940-2017)
by John Laband
Although born and educated in the United States, Paul Thompson became a leading authority on the history of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. He attended Virginia Military Institute from 1957 to 1961 and went on to earn an M.A. and Ph.D. in history at the University of Virginia. An Instructor and Assistant Professor in history at VMI from 1965 to 1968, in 1969 he took up a lecturing post in history at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal) where he remained until his retirement. Thereafter, as a Senior Research Associate at the same university he continued to be extremely active as a scholar, presenting papers at international conferences and writing books, book chapters and articles until the very end.
Paul’s publications were all based on meticulous archival research reinforced by extensive fieldwork, and were enhanced by his considerable cartographic skills. As an authority on the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, with John Laband he co-authored the twice revised The Illustrated Guide to the Anglo-Zulu War (1979, 1983, 2000), War Comes to Umvoti: The Natal-Zululand Border 1878–1879 (1980), and The Buffalo Border 1879: The Anglo-Zulu War in Northern Natal (1983). They also brought out a collection of their articles in Kingdom and Colony at War: Sixteen Studies on the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 (1990). Paul had an especial interest in African levies and auxiliaries, and was the sole author of the authoritative Black Soldiers of the Queen: The Natal Native Contingent in the Anglo-Zulu War (2006). Later in his career he turned his attention to the Zulu Uprising of 1906 (the Bhambatha Rebellion) and authored An Historical Atlas of the Zulu Rebellion (2002), Bambatha at Mpanza: The Making of a Rebel (2004), and Incident at Trewirgie: First Shots of the Zulu Rebellion 1906 (2005). Paul’s curiosity extended to the singular English-speaking settlers of Natal, and he examined them in Natalians First: Separatism in South Africa 1909–1961 (1990), and in The British Civic Culture of Natal, South Africa 1902–1961 (1999).
Paul married Mary Earline Queen in 1968. He leaves her, a son and a daughter, and four grandchildren.
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