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Reid, Richard James (1996) Economic and Military Change in Nineteenth-Century Buganda. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis examines economic and military change in pre-colonial Buganda, with particular reference to the nineteenth century. It explores the material basis of Ganda power, including the domestic economy, the growth of commerce, the development of the canoe fleet, and the organisation of the army. It also considers how the state used its resources in terms of public labour, tribute and slavery to generate wealth and strengthen its position externally. The domestic economy was both more complex and more fragile than has previously been assumed. A wide variety of crops were cultivated by the late nineteenth century, and intensive agriculture was practised alongside the keeping of livestock. Food shortages and cattle disease, however, combined in the late nineteenth century to undermine the Ganda economy at a time of political upheaval and military weakness. In addition to domestic production, the Ganda derived considerable wealth from trade, which underwent dramatic changes in the nineteenth century. Long-distance commerce developed along regional trade routes and was extremely lucrative. The increasing demand for goods such as slaves and ivory from coastal traders was balanced by the demand in Buganda for cloth and guns. Simultaneously, Buganda, one of the most powerful military states in the region, was suffering a military decline after c. 1850. In order to offset this, as well as to control the trade routes to the coast, the Ganda developed a large fleet of canoes capable of crossing Lake Victoria. Although the size and capability of these vessels was unsurpassed in the region, their success was limited. By the 1880s, the army had been weakened by the over-emphasis on firearms, while the ability of the Ganda to procure ivory for export was severely impaired; slaves had become the main export.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 16:57

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