Pre-colonial Africa and traditional social evolutionary theories of state formation and civilization


Richard E. Blanton*

One of the most frequently repeated claims in the social history literature is that good government and democracy were radical Western departures from traditional forms of premodern governance that were mired in autocracy. The prevailing Western theory of human social evolution has been one source validating this kind of Eurocentric and progressivistic thinking. Yet, recent empirical investigations and a turn to new theoretical frameworks challenge the prevailing social evolutionary theory. Data on pre-Colonial state formation in sub-Saharan Africa, that had been largely ignored or misinterpreted by social evolutionists, has been one stimulating source for this rethinking.

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