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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Virtu and Fortuna in Radamas Nascent Bureaucracy, 1816-1828
Author:Berg, Gerald M.
Periodical:History in Africa
Geographic term:Madagascar
Subjects:Merina polity
traditional polities
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/3171933
Abstract:In the late 18th century Imerina was checkered with a myriad of tiny principalities, each ruled from hilltop fortresses. In just fifty years from 1780 to 1830, it was unified under a single ruler, drawing Merina into increasingly wider systems of obedience and creating a vast imperium that held sway over most of the island of Madagascar. And yet, the half century of tumultuous change that characterized the empire's rise brought no revolution in the Merina's own understanding of the world of power, a view which the author has termed 'hasina' ideology. Merina saw historical reality as the product not of human agency, but of ancestral beneficence, 'hasina', which flowed downwards on obedient Merina. 'Hasina' was also a guide to political action. As 'hasina' ideology was translated into political policy, new groups of privileged royal servants were created. This article examines how these new administrators rose to the heights of power. It shows that the process by which individuals acquired descent throughout their career was represented by 'hasina' exchanges in which power among the living flowed from ancestral will. Radama's administrators and generals were those who, by 'virtý' of scribal skill and military prowess, attached themselves by ties of descent to powerful ancestors who assured their fortunes and their 'fortuna'. Notes, ref.