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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Kings, chiefs and officials: the political organization of Dahomey and Buganda compared
Author:Claessen, H.J.M.
Periodical:Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law
Geographic term:Benin
Subjects:Dahomey polity
traditional rulers
Buganda polity
Abstract:The structural traits separating the early State from the chiefdom are the power to enforce decisions and the power to prevent fission. This article compares two 19th-century early States, Dahomey and Buganda. In both cases, the ruler was sacral, embodied law and order, and acted as a mediator between his people and his divine ancestors. All decisions were taken by the ruler, although the top dignitaries had great influence on decisionmaking. In both early States the members of the royal family were kept practically outside the government, and counterweights were created against powerful groups. The succession of the ruler was arranged by dynastic election. The position of women in the courts of Dahomey and Buganda differed considerably. In Dahomey, women played an important role in ritual and politics, but it is not clear if one of them fulfilled the function of 'queen'; in Buganda, the queen-sister of the ruler was particularly powerful. In both cases there were central, regional, and local officials. In order to find out whether these traits are typical for all early States, other examples should be studied. Bibliogr., notes, ref.