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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:A Theory of the Canoe House Corporation
Author:Wariboko, Nimi
Periodical:African Economic History
Geographic term:Nigeria
Subjects:social structure
Economics and Trade
History and Exploration
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/3601694
Abstract:The canoe house ('wari') was the most characteristic political and social institution of the Eastern Niger Delta states of Nigeria in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was not a lineage or descent group; rather it was a 'compact and well-organized trading and fighting corporation, capable of manning and maintaining a war canoe'. There are three fundamental questions that have not been definitely answered in the study of the canoe house governance system: What was its origin? What was the process of its growth by segmentation? Which activities should be performed within the house and which within the market, and why? This paper offers a single theory (based on transaction cost economics) that answers all three questions. It shows that the formation of the canoe house system and its segmentation were associated with human asset specificity and difficulty of productivity evaluation. It also provides an answer to the question of what determined the decisions the Niger Delta merchants made about which of their transactions should be performed within the canoe house. The canoe house was a simple hierarchical arrangement that enabled merchants to internalize transactions that were previously conducted across market boundaries, as investment in transaction-specific assets increased. Transaction cost economics shows that the canoe house was a governance mechanism to safeguard worker-traders and head-traders against the hazards of opportunism. Notes, ref.