Go to AfricaBib home

Go to AfricaBib home AfricaBib Go to database home

bibliographic database
Previous page New search

The free AfricaBib App for Android is available here

Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Order, openness, and economic change in precolonial southern Africa: a perspective from the Bokoni terraces
Authors:Delius, Peter
Schirmer, StefanISNI
Periodical:The Journal of African History (ISSN 0021-8537)
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:political economy
farming systems
social structure
precolonial period
External link:https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021853713000844
Abstract:The Bokoni settlement in Mpumalanga, South Africa is the largest known terraced site in Africa. The settlement consisted of intensively farmed terraced fields spanning 150 kilometres along the eastern escarpment. It flourished from around 1500 until the 1820s, after which it all but disappeared. This article first sets out to interpret the growing body of primarily archaeological Bokoni evidence from the perspective of economic history. Another, although secondary, goal of the article is to contribute to debates about the precolonial roots of African poverty. Accordingly, the authors outline the factors that may have facilitated the emergence of this region as a major food-producing area. They argue that Bokoni formed part of a decentralized social order that was built around the logic of production and was conducive to dynamic forms of accumulation. This decentralized, cooperative regional order was replaced in the early nineteenth century by a new order built around the logic of extraction and war. This new order militated against the development of decentralized intensive farming and emphasized instead the accumulation of military technology - most notably guns and the construction of military strongholds. As a result, the population of Bokoni plummeted and terraced farming fell into disuse in the region. These insights, the authors argue, call into question recent attempts to find the roots of African poverty in specific types of precolonial social arrangements. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]