It is possible that not all societies are able to take advantage of gains from

It is possible that not all societies are able to

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It is possible that not all societies are able to take advantage of gains from trade in order to become states. Groups that look different from their neighbors early on may expand in response to new trading opportunities not seized by other societies around them. This need not, on its own, imply rejection of the basic argument that this ex- pansion was based on trade. What is critical is whether the society would have had the resources to become a regional power in the absence of revenues and other benefits coming from this trade. Alternative stories: Six influential states
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20 JAMES FENSKE T ABLE 12. Alternative stories: Six influential states [Table 12 here] There are six centralized states in Table 9 – the Yoruba, Songhai, Toro, Suku, Luba and Lozi. To test the “Ricardian” view, I ask five questions in each case. First, did these so- cieties participate in trade? Second, was trade a source of wealth for the society? Third, was trade a source of state power? Fourth, did these polities rise and fall with the for- tunes of external trade? Fifth, did these states move to capture trading regions after they grew strong? I summarize the answers to these questions in Table 12. While the evi- dence does not in every case support the view that trade promotes states rather than the reverse (especially the answers to the fourth question), it is broadly consistent with this interpretation. Yoruba . Morton-Williams (1969) argues that Yoruba Oyo and Akan Ashanti “devel- oped under the stimulus of external trade, owing much from their beginnings to their proximity to the Mande trade routes in the north, and later also to their fortunate posi- tions in the hinterlands during the growth of the maritime markets on the coast.” Law (1977) is more guarded, suggesting that three factors together explain the rise of Oyo – the strength of its imported cavalry, its participation in long-distance commerce with the north, and its engagement in the Atlantic slave trade, the latter being followed by Oyo’s imperial expansion. It is clear that trade was important in the Oyo economy. Oyo cloth was sold to Dahomey and Porto Novo, and the state imported kola nuts from the forest areas of Yorubaland for consumption and re-export. Salt and camwood were im- ported, and the latter was re-exported to Nupe. The horses on which the Oyo cavalry depended were also imported from the north, albeit in return for slaves. Critically, Law (1977) shows that the Alafin (king) relied heavily on trade taxes for his revenues; even direct taxes were collected in cowries and other currencies that were largely acquired through trade. Further, he and other chiefs engaged in trade personally. Trade upheld the authority of the Alafin by permitting him to maintain a superior standard of life, and by enabling him to distribute money and trade goods. The story that emerges from the accounts of Morton-Williams (1969) and Law (1977), then, is of a state that depended on trade across ecological zones for its existence, but was spurred to expand by the rise of the coastal slave trade. Neither author mentions conquest of neighboring regions as
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  • Spring '17
  • JAMES FENSKE

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