International Journal of Anthropology

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 41–51 | Cite as

Consensus and coercion-prerequisites for government in early States

  • H. J. M. Claessen


The article discusses the paradoxical situation that in early States, kings who were strongly legitimized by their sacred position, yet exerted much coercion. With the help of data from Black Africa an explanation of this situation is attempted. It is suggested that the contradiction was caused mainly by the combination of being at the same time a sacred king and a mundane ruler. Regarding the problem of regicide, which was found to occur quite regularly in Africa, it is suggested that ageing kings could no longer guarantee fertility, and thus endangered the prosperity of the kingdom. They therefore had to be deposed. Justification for killing could be found in transgressions the king commited during his inauguration ceremonies.

Key words

Black Africa coercion consensus Early States government legitimacy regicide sacred kingship 


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Copyright information

© International Institute for the Study of Man 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. J. M. Claessen
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Cultural and Social StudiesThe University of LeidenThe Netherlands

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