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THERE is a popular and reasonably accurate view of pre-colonial government in Africa which believes that Africans were governed by rulers who are usually referred to as chiefs. While there were some societies in Africa where authority was exercised in a less obviously hierarchical fashion, most African polities were dominated by individual rulers whose legitimacy depended, as in so many other parts of the world, upon descent and by their near monopoly of material or spiritual means of coercion. Historians of Africa have obviously been interested in the fate of these institutions over time and have broadly concluded that by the twentieth century these monarchies were dying institutions. There are several studies of very varied cases which range from the virtual extinction of chieftaincy at the hands of colonial powers to others in which colonialism deprived traditional rulers of absolute sovereignty and did so by shielding them from the simultaneous corrosion and vitalisation of modernisation. Like most generalisations, this is caricature. But it is fair to say that modern historiography has regarded chiefs and chieftaincy as the peripheral tags of a pre-modern order; where chieftaincy survived into the second half of the twentieth century, it was because of the un-natural, instrumental preservation of these archaic forms of government and value allocation, by colonialism.