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Land tenure and agrarian social structure in Ethiopia, 1636-1900

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Title: Land tenure and agrarian social structure in Ethiopia, 1636-1900
Author(s): Tegegne, Habtamu M.
Director of Research: Crummey, Donald E.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Crummey, Donald E.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Symes, Carol L.; Stewart, Charles C.; Brennan, James R.; Cuno, Kenneth M.
Department / Program: History
Discipline: History
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Property land tenure social structure labor class and economic relations
Abstract: Most scholars have viewed property in pre-modern Ethiopia in “feudal” terms analogous to medieval Europe. According to them, Ethiopia’s past property arrangement had been in every respect archaic implying less than complete property rights, for, unlike in modern liberal societies, it vested no ownership or “absolute” rights in a single individual over a material object. By draining any notions of ownership right, historians therefore characterized the forms of property through which the Ethiopian elites supported themselves as “fief-holding” or rights of lordship, which merely entitled them to collect tribute from the subject peasantry. By using land registers, surveys, charters, and private property transactions, which I collected from Ethiopian churches and monasteries, this dissertation challenges this conception of property in premodern Ethiopia by arguing that Ethiopian elites did exercise ownership rights over the land, thus providing them a means by which to control the peasantry. Through the concepts of rim (a form of private property in land exclusively held by social elites) and zéga (a hitherto unrecognized serf-like laborers), I explore the economic and social relationship between rulers and ruled that defined political culture in premodern Ethiopia. As a norm rim derived from confiscated peasant property and it mediated or exposed the social dependence of the zéga class on the ruling class. Rim together with zéga emphasize that the peasants were far less independent and secure in their property rights than conventional portrayals, while indicating the ability of rulers to create a sharply defined social distance for the maintenance of a land tenure system that supported harsh exploitation and domination.
Issue Date: 2011-08-26
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/26337
Rights Information: Copyright 2011 Habtamu M. Tegegne
Date Available in IDEALS: 2013-08-27
Date Deposited: 2011-08
 

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