Warriors, Merchants, and Slaves: The State and the Economy in the Middle Niger Valley, 1700-1914

Warriors, Merchants, and Slaves: The State and the Economy in the Middle Niger Valley, 1700-1914

Warriors, Merchants, and Slaves: The State and the Economy in the Middle Niger Valley, 1700-1914

Warriors, Merchants, and Slaves: The State and the Economy in the Middle Niger Valley, 1700-1914

Excerpt

The relationships between warriors, merchants, and slaves took many forms in precolonial Africa, but almost always those relationships were central to the regional political economy and the structure and performance of the economy. This is a study of warriors, merchants, and slaves in three successive states in the Middle Niger valley of what is now the Republic of Mali: the Segu Bambara state, the Umarian state, and the French colonial state. Although this study does not claim to exhaust the range of possible variations in the relationships between the groups as they vied for power, accumulation, and autonomy, it does seek to identify the significant trends and explain how the changing relationships affected the structure of the successive states and the performance of the economy over a span of two hundred years.

The initial research for this study was conducted for a dissertation presented to the University of Toronto in 1978. My original study, although critical of conventions in the field of West African economic history, was nonetheless shaped by them: it was primarily a cross-sectional study of the economy of the Middle Niger valley, focussing on a community of long-distance traders. My uneasiness about presenting the economy as a more or less autonomous sphere of the past was reflected in a long, but separate, historical introduction to that study. Since then, my thinking on the nature of West African precolonial economic history has made me increasingly aware of the need to view the structure and performance of the economy as an integral part of the political economy that shaped it and was also shaped by it. During subsequent research in Mali in 1981 and 1984, and in France in . . .

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