chapter  [22]
40 Pages

War, Famine, and Pestilence in Late Precolonial Tanzania: A Case for a Heightened Mortality*

WithJuhani Koponen

This chapter discusses famine, war and disease as separate phenomena, but, as should have become evident in the course of the argument, such a separation can be justified only as a methodological device. It focuses not on precolonial mortality as a whole but only on one aspect of it: the crisis mortality due to, and other effects of, famine, war and pestilence. Famine certainly looms large both in oral tradition and in the early ethnographic sources. The conclusion drawn by later historians was simple: famine must have been a major reason for high mortality in precolonial Tanzania. Inter-African war, greatly emphasized by early colonial writers, has not been a fashionable subject in post-colonial historiography. If there is no way to give quantitative estimates of mortality rates for sustained periods, it is even more difficult to calculate the effects of calamities on the population growth rate.