Rural petty-state and overlordship: Missing links in the evolution of the early state

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Abstract

The intrinsic pre- and protohistoric nature of early state formation makes this process inherently obscure. Two major links in it have thus escaped scholarly attention. The rural petty-state was widespread as the early form of statehood in many evolving state systems. It was too centralized and developed to rank as chiefdom, while lacking a large nucleated urban center to be categorized as city-state. Over time, the evolutionary race towards increased size, generated by power politics, caused a process of unification, whereby one polity established overlordship over the others in the system. Overlordship, hegemony, or suzerainty were almost regularly the initial mechanism of this process of unification, not only in rural petty-states systems but also in other paths of state evolution, both from a tribal/chiefly/stratified society and through city petty-states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-142
Number of pages16
JournalAnthropos
Volume98
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003

Keywords

  • Early state
  • Micro-state
  • Petty-state; overlordship
  • State emergence

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