Segou: Warfare and the Origins of a State of Slavery

Kevin C. Macdonald and Seydou Camara

in Slavery in Africa

Published by British Academy

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780197264782
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754012 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Segou: Warfare and the Origins of a State of Slavery

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The Bamana state of Segou (c.1700–1861) has been used as an exemplar of the slave system of economic production amongst Sahelian states by anthropologists and historians such as Bazin (1974), Roberts (1987), and Meillassoux (1991). However, little is known about the nature of Segou's connection to broader slave-trading networks of the time or, from an archaeological perspective, how such slave systems of production may be viewed in terms of settlement types or patterns. This chapter addresses aspects of these two puzzles through the field research of Project Segou, a collaboration between University College London and the Malian Institut des Sciences Humaines. It concentrates on results from the 2006 season directed by the authors — fieldwork which focused on the nature and history of Segou's slave economy. The chapter summarizes findings on the functioning of the Segovian slave system of production, and then briefly considers two case studies: one concerning Segou's first major war of enslavement, and a second examining two of Segou's enigmatic Sifinso (or ‘schools of the black hair’), places which may have played an important role in the mental conditioning of select groups of new captives.

Keywords: Bamana; Segovian slave system; economic production; slave trade; Project Segou; slave economy; Sifinso

Chapter.  7882 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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