This article reassesses the accepted model of pre-colonial Tonga (Zambian) society. In a series of books and articles Elizabeth Colson has established an anthropological framework in which to analyse Tonga social and political activities. The basic parameters of that framework would appear to be: ‘Until the beginnings of the colonial period, approximately seventy years ago the largest named territorial unit among the Tonga was the small neighbourhood community.’ Ritual offices existed within the neighbourhood but political office was embryonic or non-existent until the British Government recognized headmen and chiefs and later developed a local council with an appointed civil service. (Colson, 1980b: 35). Social life is characterized as ‘anarchical’ (Colson, 1970a: 87). Politically the Tonga were said to be ‘stateless’ (Colson, 1970a: 207) and ‘amorphous’ (Colson, 1970b: 36). In a paper given in 1968 Colson analyses the concept of tribe, and states that the Tonga only recognized themselves as Tonga when young nationalist schoolboys tried to give them self-awareness. Thus, the Tonga in Colson's view are a creation of British bureaucracy and of a burgeoning nationalism. (Colson, 1968: 202; cf. also Colson, 1970b: 36). More recently the same basic position is reiterated, though the possibility of a change of viewpoint is left open; ‘Even the idea of a social unit of all Tonga is a recent creation and is still likely to be invoked principally in the national political arena, though the continued importance of the shrine of Monze may have political overtones of which I am unaware.’ (Colson, 1977: 137).