HOLLY HANSON. “Stolen People & Autonomous Chiefs in Nineteenth-Century Buganda: The Social Consequences of Non-Free Followers.” In Slavery in the Great Lakes Region of East Africa, edited by Henri Médard and Shane Doyle, 161-173. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007.

MICHAEL W. TUCK. “Women’s Experiences of Enslavement & Slavery in Late Nineteenth- & Early Twentieth-Century Uganda.” In Slavery in the Great Lakes Region of East Africa, edited by Henri Médard and Shane Doyle, 174-188. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007.


The readings for this week are the first in a series of two case studies on specific regions of East Africa in the nineteenth century. East Africa is an area that includes Mozambique and the Great Lakes Region. Situated on the western Indian Ocean, this area corresponds to the present-day coasts of Mozambique, Tanzania, and southeastern Kenya, as well as Madagascar and various nearby islands like Comoros, Mayotte, Réunion, and Mauritius. The area also includes many hinterland regions of Eastern Africa, such as present-day Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda. The readings assigned for this week are two selected chapters from an edited volume by Henri Médard and Shane Doyle entitled Slavery in the Great Lakes Region of East Africa. They are both about slavery in Uganda in the nineteenth century.

Hanson’s “Stolen People & Autonomous Chiefs in Nineteenth-Century Buganda”

In this piece, Hanson explores the social consequences of a new form of chiefship emerging in the Kingdom of Buganda, located in the present-day nation of Uganda. She explores this subject from its probable origins in the mid-eighteenth century under King Namugala to the early colonial period. This new form of chiefship was known as ekitongole in the singular and ebitongole in the plural. Essentially, these ebitongole are organized, specialized, and institutionalized groups of non-free war captives (read: slaves) that were acquired in Buganda’s wars of imperial expansion. These wars went on from about the late-seventeenth through the nineteenth century. The ebitongole were a way to organize the labor of war captives on new and unoccupied land. This form of labor organization was fundamentally different from the ways that labor had been structured previously. Rather than Baganda followers being named after chiefs or significant historical events, the ebitongole were named for the type of labor that they were expected to perform, whether that be clearing forests, hunting animals to protect local communities, making war, gathering ivory, growing provisions for the caravan trade, or engaging in some other form of work entirely.

Hanson argues that the ebitongole profoundly destabilized the Buganda Kingdom by breaking down the social order that had prevailed before their creation. The ebitongole challenged prior social structures in several key ways. First, chiefs had previously competed against one another to obtain followers, and they did so by appealing to the recognized prestige of the kabaka or Buganda King. Now, however, the chiefs did not have to compete for the kabaka’s authority since they had less of a need to obtain the allegiance of free followers. Likewise, the kabaka were no longer reliant on labor tribute from the chiefs because they had their own ebitongole. Meanwhile, the ebitongole undermined established traditions of gift exchange between the chiefs and the kabaka, and hurt the kabaka’s ability to maintain the kingdom’s balance of power through distributing land. The erosion of these reciprocal relationships between the kabaka and chiefs is epitomized by the high turnover rate of kabaka between 1670 and 1812, as well as the proliferation of new chiefs at the expense of those who traditionally held land. Lastly, since the rise of the ebitongole made Buganda chiefs less dependent on having free followers, they also eroded the status of free or ordinary Ganda citizens. Everyday people had less of an ability to leverage political allegiance to their social advantage. Continue reading “Case Studies of East African History in the Nineteenth Century — Uganda”