The Precolonial State in West Africa

The Precolonial State in West Africa : Building Power in Dahomey

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This volume incorporates historical, ethnographic, art historical, and archaeological sources to examine the relationship between the production of space and political order in the West African Kingdom of Dahomey during the tumultuous Atlantic Era. Dahomey, situated in the modern Republic of Benin, emerged in this period as one of the principal agents in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and an exemplar of West African state formation. Drawing from eight years of ethnohistorical and archaeological fieldwork in the Republic of Benin, the central thesis of this volume is that Dahomean kings used spatial tactics to project power and mitigate dissent across their territories. J. Cameron Monroe argues that these tactics enabled kings to economically exploit their subjects and to promote a sense of the historical and natural inevitability of royal power.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 69 b/w illus. 19 maps 3 tables
  • 113995041X
  • 9781139950411

Table of contents

1. Introduction; 2. Geography, settlement, and politics on the slave coast; 3. Dahomey and the Atlantic world: the royal palace sphere; 4. Capturing the countryside; 5. The city as history; 6. Power by design; 7. Building Dahomey.
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Review quote

'A groundbreaking study of state formation along the West African coast during the period of European contact.' S. MacEachern, Choice 'The Precolonial State is an accessible and interesting book and adds considerably to our understanding of Dahomey ... Monroe's statement of the problems and assertion of solutions are sure to transform how the kingdom is discussed in the future.' John K. Thornton, International Journal of African Historical Studies
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About J. Cameron Monroe

J. Cameron Monroe is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Director of the Abomey Plateau Research Project in the Republic of Benin, West Africa. He is the recipient of the Society for Historical Archaeology Dissertation Prize for 2005 and held a position as a postdoctoral fellow in African and African-American Studies, Anthropology, and History at Washington University in St Louis (2004-6). His research broadly addresses the political, economic, and cultural transformation in West Africa and the diaspora in the era of the slave trade. His research project (the Abomey Plateau Archaeological Project, Benin) examines the political economy of landscape and the built environment, and the nature of urban transformation in West Africa in the Atlantic Era. He has published in Historical Archaeology, the Journal of African History, the Journal of Social Archaeology, Current Anthropology, Annual Review of Anthropology, and American Scientist Magazine. He is co-editor of Power and Landscape in Atlantic West Africa: Archaeological Perspectives. Monroe currently serves on the editorial board of Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa.
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