The agenda was set a century and a half ago. In a war zone in southern Africa, bureaucrats manning the states of the Cape Colony and adjacent British Kaffraria were witnessing – and transforming – what they deemed an extraordinary event.They coined names for it: ‘Cattle-Killing mania’, ‘Cattle-Killing’, ‘delusion’. They delineated its spatial boundaries: the mania was confined to Xhosaland and colonised Thembuland. They periodised it: the delusion lasted a year, beginning one thousand eight hundred and fifty-six years after the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. They defined its racial and gender dynamics: the central actors were black men (who virtually monopolised cattle); they were inspired by a male prophet, Mhlakaza, assisted by his niece, Nongqawuse. Subsidiary pathologies were noted, including goat-killing, a ‘non-planting mania’ and preparations for an apocalypse, when the English would be replaced by peace, prosperity and black rulers, headed by resurrected forefathers bearing resurrected cattle.