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The article analyses various cases of captivity in a region comprised within modern-day South Africa and Lesotho in the late precolonial period. Focusing on a single social institution, bohlanka, the article follows its traces scattered among the Batlhaping, the Basotho, the Barolong, the Bataung, and other smaller precolonial communities. Generally considered by scholars as a form of clientship based on cattle-loans, bohlanka is here redefined as originating from warfare and captivity, and later expanding to include the destitute. The fundamental elements of the institution — violence, natal alienation, and suspended death — lead to the conclusion that bohlanka constituted a local form of slavery that pre-dated colonial influences.



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Parts of the article were presented at the ASAI Conference in Catania (2016), at the Cambridge ARF (2017), and the SAHS Conference in Johannesburg (2017). I am grateful for the useful feedback received in all these occurrences, and I would like to single out the great comments by Rachel King and Mark McGranaghan. Wayne Dooling, Pierluigi Valsecchi, and Paul Landau commented on earlier drafts. I thank them and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable help. Author's email:



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1 Maggs, T., Iron Age Communities of the Southern Highveld (Pietermaritzburg, 1976), 11; Shillington, K., The Colonisation of the Southern Tswana 1870–1900, (Johannesburg, 1985), 311; Jacobs, N., Environment, Power, and Injustice: A South African History (Cambridge, 2003), 131.

2 Landau, P., Popular Politics in the History of South Africa, 1400–1948, (Cambridge, New York), 2010, xiixiii, 1–73.

3 I have adopted the orthography employed by the Cambridge History of South Africa: no prefixes for ethnonyms used adjectivally (Sotho household); capitalisation of the root, not the prefix, for Nguni-derived ethnonyms (the amaZulu); and capitalisation of the prefix, not the root, for Sotho-Tswana-derived ethnonyms (the Basotho); see Hamilton, C., Mbenga, B. K., and Ross, R., (eds.), Cambridge History of South Africa, Volume I: From Early Times to 1885 (Cambridge, 2010), ix.

4 Volz, S. C., ‘European missionaries and Tswana identity in the 19th century’, Pula. Botswana Journal of African Studies, 17:1 (2003), 319; Landau, Popular Politics, 232–8.

5 Sanders, P., Throwing Down White Man: Cape Rule and Misrule in Colonial Lesotho, 1871–1884 (London, 2011), 16.

6 I. Schapera, A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom, (Oxford, 2004 [orig. pub. 1938]), 32, 66–8, 246–55; Schapera, I., ‘The political organization of the Ngwato of Bechuanaland Protectorate’, in Fortes, M. and Evans-Pritchard, E. E. (eds.), African Political Systems (Oxford, 1940), 5860.

7 Wilson, M., ‘The hunters and herders’; ‘The Nguni people’; ‘The Sotho, Venda, and Tsonga’, in Wilson, M. and Thompson, L. (eds.), A History of South Africa to 1870 (London, 1982 [orig. pub. 1969]), 63–4, 120–1, 155–6, 164–5.

8 Thompson, L., Survival in Two Worlds: Moshoeshoe of Lesotho, 1796–1870 (Oxford, 1975), 12.

9 Eldredge, E. A., A South African Kingdom: The Pursuit of Security in Nineteenth-century Lesotho (Cambridge, 1993), 2841, 195–6.

10 Etherington, N., The Great Treks: The Transformations of Southern Africa, 1815–1854 (London, 2001), 9293; J. Wright, ‘Turbulent times: political transformations in the north and east, 1760s–1830s’, in Hamilton, Mbenga, Ross, Cambridge History of South Africa i, 246.

11 Tlou, T., ‘Servility and political control: botlhanka among the BaTawana of northwestern Botswana, ca. 1750–1906’, in Miers, S. and Kopytoff, I. (eds.), Slavery in Africa: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives (Madison, 1977), 367–90.

12 Miers, S., Crowder, M., ‘The politics of slavery in Bechuanaland: power struggles and the plight of the Basarwa in the Bamangwato Reserve, 1926–1940’, in Miers, S. and Roberts, R. (eds.), The End of Slavery in Africa (Madison, 1988), 172200; Wylie, D., A Little God: The Twilight of Patriarchy in a Southern African Chiefdom (Johannesburg, 1991), 8491.

13 Morton, B., ‘Servitude, slave trading, and slavery in the Kalahari’, in Eldredge, E. A. and Morton, F. (eds.), Slavery in South Africa: Captive Labor on the Dutch Frontier (Boulder, CO, 1994), 215–50.

14 Sanders, P., Moshoeshoe, Chief of the Sotho (London, 1975), 11.

15 Omer-Cooper, J. D., The Zulu Aftermath: A Nineteenth-Century Revolution in Bantu Africa, (London, 1966). A previous account of the mfecane as ‘the crushing’ is in E. A. Walker, A History of Southern Africa (London, 1962 [orig. pub. 1928]), 174–6. The development of the historiography on the mfecane was summarised in Saunders, C., ‘Pre-Cobbing Mfecane historiography’, in Hamilton, C. (ed.), The Mfecane Aftermath: Reconstructive Debates in Southern African History (Johannesburg, 1995), 2134.

16 Ellenberger, D. F. and Macgregor, J. C., History of the Basuto, Ancient and Modern, Facsimile reprint of the 1912 edition, (Morija, Lesotho, 1997), 117–21.

17 Bonner, P., Kings, Commoners and Concessionaires: The Evolution and Dissolution of the Nineteenth-Century Swazi State (Cambridge, 1982), 2746; Delius, P., The Land Belongs to Us: The Pedi Polity, the Boers and the British in the Nineteenth-century Transvaal, (London, 1984), 1930.

18 Atmore, A. and Sanders, P., ‘Sotho arms and ammunition in the nineteenth century’, The Journal of African History, 12:4 (1971), 535–44; Sanders, Moshoeshoe, 11, 54–56; Thompson, Survival, 2, 196–8; Wilson, ‘The Sotho, Venda, and Tsonga’, 154; Wright, ‘Turbulent times’, 246; Eldredge, E. A., Power in Colonial Africa: Conflict and Discourse in Lesotho, 1870–1960 (Madison, WI, 2007), 2831.

19 Cobbing, J., ‘The Mfecane as Alibi: Thoughts on Dithakong and Mbolompo’, The Journal of African History, 29:3 (1988), 487519.

20 Hamilton, The Mfecane Aftermath; Wright, ‘Turbulent times’, 211–2; Eldredge, E. A., ‘Sources of conflict in Southern Africa, c.1800–1830: The ‘Mfecane’ reconsidered’, The Journal of African History, 33:1 (1992), 135; E. A. Eldredge, ‘Delagoa Bay and the hinterland in the early nineteenth century: Politics, trade, slaves, and slave raiding’, in Eldredge and F. Morton, Slavery in South Africa, 127–65.

21 Etherington, Great Treks, x–xxv; Etherington, N., ‘Were there large states in the coastal regions of Southeast Africa before the rise of the Zulu kingdom?’, History in Africa, 31 (2004), 157–83; Etherington, N., ‘A tempest in a teapot? Nineteenth-century contest for land in South Africa's Caledon Valley and the invention of the Mfecane’, The Journal of African History, 45:2 (2004), 203–19.

22 S. Hall, ‘Archaeological indicators for stress in the western Transvaal region between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries’, N. Parsons, ‘Prelude to Difaqane in the interior of Southern Africa c.1600-c.1822’, and A. Manson, ‘Conflict in the western Highveld/southern Kalahari c.1750-1820’, in Hamilton, The Mfecane Aftermath, 307–21, 323–49, 351–61; S. Hall, ‘Farming communities of the second millennium: Internal frontiers, identity, continuity and change’, and Wright, ‘Turbulent times’, in Hamilton, Mbenga, Ross, Cambridge History of South Africa i, 148–54, 213; Hall, S., ‘Identity and political centralisation in the Western regions of the Highveld, c.1779–c.1830. An archaeological perspective’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 38:2 (2012), 301–18.

23 Morton, F., ‘Mephato: the rise of the Tswana militia in the pre-colonial period’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 38:2 (2012), 385–97.

24 Morton, F., ‘The rise of a raiding state: Makaba II's Ngwaketse, c. 1780–1824’, New Contree, 71 (2014), 2540; Morton, F., ‘To die for: inherited leadership (bogosi) among the Tswana before 1885’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 43:4 (2007), 699714.

25 Wilson, ‘The Sotho, Venda, and Tsonga’, 148–149n12.

26 Tlou, ‘Servility and political control’, 382.

27 Jacobs, Enivronment, 42.

28 Delius, P., ‘Recapturing captives and conversations with ‘cannibals’: in pursuit of a neglected stratum in South African history’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 36:1 (2010), 723.

29 Meillassoux, C., Anthropologie de l'esclavage: le Ventre de fer et d'argent, (Paris, 1986), 100–1; Patterson, O., Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study, (Cambridge, Massachussets, 1982), 106–22.

30 S. Miers and I. Kopytoff, ‘African “slavery” as an institution of marginality’, in Miers and Kopytoff, Slavery in Africa, 3–81.

31 Miers and Kopytoff, ‘African “slavery”’, 15.

32 In the French original ‘socialement mort’ and ‘mort en sursis’. Meillassoux, Anthropologie de L'Esclavage, 106–7.

33 Patterson, Slavery and Social Death, 1–14.

34 See also Cooper, F., ‘The problem of slavery in African studies’, The Journal of African History, 20:1 (1979), 103–25, 118n61; R. L. Watson, ‘Slavery as an institution: open and closed systems’, in R. L. Watson (ed.), Asian and African Systems of Slavery (Oxford, 1980), 1–15; Glassman, J., ‘The bondsman's new clothes: the contradictory consciousness of slave resistance on the Swahili coast’, The Journal of African History, 32, 2 (1991), 277312; A. Testart, ‘L'esclavage comme institution’, L'Homme, 145, De l'esclavage (Jan.-Mar., 1998), 31–69; Lovejoy, P. E., Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa 2nd ed. (Cambridge, 2012 [orig. pub. 1983]), 115.

35 C.-H. Perrot, Les Sotho et Les Missionnaires Européens Au 19e Siècle, (Abidjan, 1970); Thompson, Survival, 70–104; Sanders, Moshoeshoe, 122–32; Beck, R. B., ‘Monarchs and missionaries among the Tswana and Sotho’, in Elphick, R. and Davenport, R. (eds.), Christianity in South Africa: A Political, Social and Cultural History (Oxford, 1997), 110–1.

36 Casalis, E., Les Bassoutos, ou Vingt-trois Années de Séjour et d'Observations Au Sud de l'Afrique, (Paris, 1859), 190199; Epprecht, M., ‘This Matter of Women is Getting Very Bad’: Gender, Development and Politics in Colonial Lesotho (Pietermaritzburg, 2000), 1638.

37 Thompson, Survival, 95–9; Letter from T. Arbousset to Society, 5 December 1835, Morija, Journal des Missions Évangéliques (henceforth: JME), 11 (1836), 147–51.

38 Arbousset, T., ‘Note sur les Batlauka’, 30 September 1836, Thaba Bosiu, JME, 12 (1837), 42–7.

39 T. Arbousset, Relation d'un Voyage d'Exploration au Nord-Est de la Colonie Du Cap de Bonne Esperance, Entrepris dans le Mois de Mars, Avril et Mai 1836, par MM. T. Arbousset et F. Daumas, Missionnaires de la Société des Missions Évangéliques de Paris, Écrite par Thomas Arbousset, Avec Onze Dessins et une Carte (Paris, 1842), 539–41.

40 Thompson, Survival, 98.

41 Ibid. 193.

42 Sanders, Moshoeshoe, 55–6.

43 E. Bradlow, ‘Historical introduction’, in W. Somerville, William Somerville's Narrative of His Journeys to the Eastern Cape Frontier and to Lattakoe, 1799–1802, Cape Town, 1979, 13–22.

44 J. Barrow, A Voyage to Cochinchina, in the Years 1792 and 1793: Containing a General View of the Valuable Productions and the Political Importance of This Flourishing Kingdom, and Also of Such European Settlements as Were Visited on the Voyage…, to Which is Annexed an Account of a Journey Made in the Years 1801 and 1802, to the Residence of the Chief of the Booshuana Nation (London, 1806).

45 F. R. Bradlow, ‘Bibliographical introduction’, in Somerville, Narrative, 3–12.

46 Barrow, A Voyage, 405–6.

47 Somerville, Narrative, Appendix 1, Letter written by Petrus Borchardus Borcherds to his father Rev. Meent Borcherds [nd], 230.

48 Lichtenstein, H., Travels in Southern Africa in the Years 1803, 1804, 1805 and 1806, translated from the original German by Plumptre, A., Vol. 1 and 2 (London, 1812).

49 Lichtenstein, Travels, ii, 315–6, 331.

50 School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Library, Microfilm, M 4916, Seetsele Modiri Molema, ‘History of the Barolong’, 47, and section on ‘The Seleka branch of the Barolong’, 1–4; Campbell, J., Travels in South Africa Undertaken at the Request of the London Missionary Society, Being a Narrative of a Second Journey in the Interior of that Country (London, 1822), i, 302, Ibid. ii, 187.

51 Lichtenstein, H., Foundation of the Cape. About the Bechuanas (Cape Town, 1973), 75–76n91.

52 Emphasis in the original. Burchell, W. J., Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa (London, 1822–1824), ii, 472–3.

53 Burchell, Travels, ii, 535–6.

54 Ibid. 347–8, see also 375–6; Campbell, Travels: Second Journey, ii, 193, 214.

55 E. Eldredge, ‘Slave raiding across the Cape frontier’, in Eldredge, Morton, Slavery in South Africa, 104–5.

56 B. Morton, ‘Servitude, slave trading, and slavery in the Kalahari’, 222–39.

57 Lichtenstein, Foundation of the Cape: About the Bechuanas, 75–6.

58 Meillassoux, Anthropologie de l'esclavage, 143–7, 235–6; Patterson, Slavery, 106, 148–9; Lovejoy, Transformations in Slavery, 3; Cooper, ‘The problem of slavery’, 105-107; Viti, F., Schiavi, Servi e Dipendenti. Antropologia Delle Forme di Dipendenza Personale in Africa (Milano, 2007), 37.

59 Lichtenstein, Travels, ii, 331.

60 Tlou, ‘Servility and political control’, 382.

61 Thompson, Survival, 83; Sanders, Moshoeshoe, 53–4. A thoko, or praise-poem, was composed to commemorate the events. Damane, M. and Sanders, P. (eds.), Lithoko: Sotho Praise Poems (Oxford, 1974), 71–2. The point of view of the abaThembu was captured in a manuscript held at the Cory Library of Grahamstown, Ms. 18534, E. G. Sihele, Who Are the AbaThembu and Where Do They Come From?, trans. into English by N. C. Tisani, 52–6.

62 Either Casalis, Arbousset, or the editors of the missionary periodical commented: ‘The demon of battles has seized the soul of the king of the Bassoutos.’ nd. JME, 11 (1836), 18.

63 Letter from Arbousset to Society, Morija, 3 December 1835, JME, 11 (1836), 140–2. The campaign was described also by Casalis and Gosselin. Letter from Casalis to Society, Motito, 20 May 1835, and Journal by Gosselin, 6 October 1834 to 30 May 1835, JME, 11 (1836), 23–5, 40.

64 Thompson, Survival, 6; A. Mabille, H. Dieterlen (eds.) and R. A. Paroz, Southern Sotho-English Dictionary (Morija, Lesotho, 2011), 402.

65 Damane, Sanders, Lithoko, 64–5.

66 Ellenberger and Macgregor, History of the Basuto, 129; J. C. Macgregor, Basuto Traditions. Being a Record of the Traditional History of the More Important Tribes Which Form the Basuto Nation of To-Day up to the Time of Their Being Absorbed, Compiled from Native Sources (Cape Town, 1905), 18.

67 Ellenberger and Macgregor, History of the Basuto, 123. Mentioned with other cases in Eldredge, A South African Kingdom, 134.

68 Macgregor, Basuto Traditions, 25.

69 Ellenberger and Macgregor, History of the Basuto, 129.

70 Slave descent is, at least in theory, compatible with a position of power. Patterson, Slavery, 314–7; Watson, ‘Slavery as an institution’, 6; P. Valsecchi, ‘Il big man è uno schiavo. Status personale e potere nella Costa d'Oro tra Sei e Ottocento’, in P. G. Solinas, La Dipendenza. Antropologia delle Relazioni di Dominio (Lecce, Italy, 2004), 15–40.

71 M. Kinsman, ‘“Hungry wolves”: The impact of violence on Rolong life, 1823–1836’, in Hamilton, The Mfecane Aftermath, 363–93; Etherington, Great Treks, 133–7.

72 Wits Historical Papers, Johannesburg, A 567, Symons Collection, Item 5, Letter, Mrs. Hodgson to her sisters, Banks of the Modder River, 7 May 1825, photocopy; Hodgson, T. L., The Journals of the Rev. T. L. Hodgson, Missionary to the Seleka-Rolong and the Griquas, 1821–1831 (Johannesburg, 1977), 150–1, 173; Broadbent, S., A Narrative of the First Introduction of Christianity Amongst the Barolong Tribe of Bechuanas, South Africa. With a Brief Summary of the Subsequent History of the Wesleyan Missions to the Same People (London, 1865), 97–8, 107–8.

73 Melvill's narrative in Thompson, G., Travels and Adventures in Southern Africa: Comprising a View of the Present State of the Colony, with Observations on the Progress and Prospects of the British Emigrants (London, 1827), i, 309–11.

74 Macgregor, Basuto Traditions, 64.

75 Ellenberger and Macgregor, History of the Basuto, 163–4.

76 M. Damane, P. Sanders, ‘The Story of the Sotho – Part 2, by Tlali Moshoeshoe’, Edited and translated with an introduction and notes, in Mohlomi. Journal of Southern African Historical Studies, 6 (1990), 139–64, 146. According to the Mosotho historian Azariel Sekese, however, the campaign was led against the abaThembu, as it would be later in 1835. See A. T. Elias, A. M. Sekese's 29 Articles on the History of the Batlokoa Serially Published in the Leselinyana la Lesotho During 1892–1921, translated from Sesotho into English, B.A. Long Essay, National University of Lesotho (Roma, Lesotho, 1987), 19–20.

77 Ellenberger and Macgregor, History of the Basuto, 194–5.

78 Ibid. 235.

79 Peires, J. B., The House of Phalo: A History of the Xhosa People in the Days of Their Independence (Johannesburg, 2003 [orig. pub. 1981]), 132–4.

80 Letter from François Daumas to Society, Bersheeba, 5 December 1836, JME, 12 (1837), 134–6; SOAS Library, Mf 6181, David-Frédéric Ellenberger, Histoire des BaSotho, anciens et modèrnes (archives de la ‘malle Ellenberger’ II), microfiches of notes and notebooks of the French original, IDC, Leiden, 1993, ‘Chapitre VII [7]. a. Monyaloza, ses acts et sa fin; b. Expedition de Moshesh et de Moroka contre les AmaXosa et les Korannas du Riet River’, 37–40.

81 Macgregor, Basuto Traditions, 30.

82 Orpen, J. M., History of the Basutus of South Africa (Cape Town, 1857), 92–3; Theal, G. M. (ed.), Basutoland Records, Volume 1, 1833–1852, (Cape Town, 1883), ‘Minutes of a Meeting held at Winburg on the 7th February 1852 between Her Majesty's Assistant Commissioners, the Chief Molitsane, Paulus Moperi, and Molapo and David, sons of Moshesh’, 535–549. Also mentioned in Eldredge, ‘Slave raiding across the Cape frontier’, 120–1.

83 Western Cape Provincial Archives, Cape Town, (WCPA), A 302, 8: Joseph Millerd Orpen Papers, Historical Notes on Natives. Typescript of memorandum by Joseph Millerd Orpen, nd. [c.1900–10], on various subjects, 36 pp., first page missing; the reference is on page 10. Also referred to as Letlatsa. Orpen had met Letlatsa and recorded his version of the story when he was a colonial magistrate in Harrismith. On Orpen, see King, R., ‘“A loyal liking for fair play”: Joseph Millerd Orpen and knowledge production in the Cape Colony’, South African Historical Journal, 68:4 (2015), 410–32.

84 Letter from Arbousset to Society, Morija, 8 November 1853, JME, 29 (1854), 165.

85 Anonymous, ‘Account of Sikonyela’, Friend of the Sovereignty, 10 December 1853, also published in Theal, Basutoland Records, Volume 2, 82–5. This was reported also by Casalis, letter to Society, Thaba Bosiu, 4 November 1853, JME, 29 (1854), 41–2.

86 In addition, Thompson did not make any reference to the attack on the amaXhosa in 1836. Thompson, Survival, 82–3, 165–6.

87 Letter from Arbousset to Society, Morija, 12 January 1849, JME, 24 (1849), 191–4; Letter from Arbousset to Society, Morija, 8 November 1853, JME, 29 (1854), 170.

88 WCPA, A 302, 8: Joseph Millerd Orpen Papers, Historical Notes on Natives, ‘Reminiscences of H. Stevens Resident of Herschel District of 36 years standing’, 2. This could explain why Moorosi was reported to be in the 1870s the ‘nominal chief’ of the San of the Upper Orange valley; see John, J. Wright, Mazel, A. (eds.), Tracks in a Mountain Range: Exploring the History of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg (Johannesburg, 2007), 94–5; Vinnicombe, P., People of the Eland: Rock Paintings of the Drakensberg Bushmen as a Reflection of their Life and Thought (Pietermaritzburg, 1976), 87103.

89 Marshall Clarke, Unexplored Basuto Land, Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, 10:8 (1888), 519–25, 524. One of the Mosotho informants of Victor Ellenberger recalled that the ‘Bushmen’ ‘married with the Ba'phouti’. V. Ellenberger, La Fin Tragique des Bushmen (Paris, 1953), 258.

90 Damane, Sanders, Lithoko, 130–1.

91 Lagden, G., The Basutos: The Mountaineers & Their Country, Being a Narrative of Events Relating to the Tribe From Its Formation Early In the Nineteenth Century To the Present Day (London 1909), ii, 355–6.

92 Casalis, Les Bassoutos, 235.

93 Letter from Daumas to Society, Mekuatleng, January 1854, JME, 29 (1854), 175.

94 Meillassoux, Anthropologie de l'Esclavage, 110–4; C. C. Robertson and M. A. Klein (eds.), Women and Slavery in Africa (Portsmouth, 1997), 3–28.

95 Delius, ‘Recapturing captives’, 8.

96 Shell, R. C.-H., Children of Bondage: A Social History of the Slave Society at the Cape of Good Hope 1652–1838 (Hannover, 2001), 2834; F. Morton, ‘Slavery in South Africa’, in Eldredge, Morton, Slavery in South Africa, 251–69; Penn, N., The Forgotten Frontier: Colonist and Khoisan on the Cape's Northern Frontier in the 18th Century (Cape Town, 2005), 141–2; Dooling, W., ‘Reconstructing the household: the northern Cape Colony before and after the South African war’, The Journal of African History, 50:3 (2009), 399416; Bonner, Kings, Commoners and Concessionaires, 69–71; Delius, P., Trapido, S., ‘Inboekselings and Oorlams: the creation and transformation of a servile class’, Journal of South African Studies, 8:2 (1982), 214–42. These similarities with inboekstelsel, however, cannot be properly analysed here.

97 SOAS Library, Mf 6181, Ellenberger, Histoire des BaSotho, 39–40.

98 Macgregor, Basuto Traditions, 60.

99 Patterson, Slavery, 9–14, 77–101.

100 Letter from Arbousset to Society, Morija, 3 December 1835, JME, 11 (1836), 140–2.

101 V. Ellenberger, La fin, 243–49; Vinnicombe, People of the Eland, 87–103; Wright, Mazel, Tracks in a Mountain Range, 94–5; Vinnicombe, P., ‘Basotho oral knowledge: The last Bushman inhabitant of the Mashai district, Lesotho’, in Mitchell, P. and Smiths, B. (eds.), The Eland's People: New Perspectives in the Rock Art of the Maloti-Drakensberg Bushmen, (Johannesburg, 2010), 165–91; Mitchell, P., ‘Making history at Sehonghong: Soai and the last Bushman occupants of his shelter’, Southern African Humanities, 22 (2010), 149–70.

102 Gill, A Short History of Lesotho (Morja, Lesotho, 1993) 132–3; Eldredge, A South African Kingdom, 62–3; Vinnicombe, ‘Basotho oral knowledge’, 184n17.

103 Damane and Sanders, Lithoko, 59–61.

104 Guma, S. M., The Form, Content and Technique of Traditional Literature in Southern Sotho (Pretoria, 1967), 151–2; Damane and Sanders, Lithoko, 59; Sanders, Throwing Down White Man, 6–7; Finnegan, R., Oral Literature in Africa (Cambridge, 2012 [orig. pub. 1970]), 111–43; Kunene, D. P., Heroic Poetry of the Basotho (Oxford, 1971); Iliffe, J., Honour in African History (Cambridge, 2005), 140–60.

105 V. Ellenberger, La Fin, 255–7.

106 Mitchell, ‘Making history at Sehonghong’, 156.

107 Damane and Sanders, Lithoko, 197, 208; Mangoaela, Z. D., Lithoko Tsa Marena a Basotho, (Morija, Lesotho, 2011 [orig. pub. 1921]), 123, 129.

108 Mabille, Dieterlen, Paroz, Southern Sotho-English Dictionary, 393.

109 Damane and Sanders, Lithoko, 182–6; Mangoaela, Lithoko, 114–7.

110 Kunene, Heroic Poetry of the Basotho, 131–5; Damane and Sanders, Lithoko, 39–43.

111 Damane and Sanders, Lithoko, 68n2.

112 Ibid. 130–1.

113 Schapera, I., Praise-Poems of Tswana Chiefs (Oxford, 1965), 50.

114 Royal Geographical Society Archives, London, Ronald Stretton Webb Papers, Box 15, ‘Bakubung Lihoja. English Version of Fred Serame Ramakabane's original Sotho mss. Done by Abraham Aaron Moletsane in 1960…1961’, 145–6; F. Porte, ‘Les Réminescences d'un Missionnaire du Basutoland (suite), Missions de la Congrègation des Oblats de Marie Immaculée, 34, 135 (Septembre 1896), 269–357, 311–3; M. A. A. Moletsane, An Account of the Autobiographical Memoir (Paarl, South Africa 1967) 2; Epprecht, This Matter of Women, 19, 23; Mabille, Dieterlen, Paroz, Southern Sotho-English Dictionary, 60, 304, 328.

115 ‘A queen, after she became a widow, usually entertains a crowd of female servants; she marries her servants, she would tell you every day: Ke nyetse mometsana (“I've just married a girl”), that is to say that she has just acquired a girl.’ Porte, ‘Les Réminescences’, 311. This nameless description was very likely based on ‘MaMosa, because the missionary Porte worked mainly in Molapo's district of Leribe. This practice is also described by Perrot, Les Sotho et les Missionnaires Européens, 109–10.

116 Mangoaela, Lithoko, 116. Unfortunately, the connection between bohlanka, polygamy, and marriage cannot be properly examined in this paper, and will be analysed in another work.

117 V. Ellenberger, La Fin, 258.

118 Ibid. 255–7.

119 The French original is ‘s'apprivoisèrent’. V. Ellenberger, La Fin, 257.

120 Dooling, ‘Reconstructing the household’, 407; Meillassoux, Anthropologie de l'Esclavage, 109.

121 V. Ellenberger, La Fin, 256. Author's translation from the original French.

122 Ibid.

123 Ibid.

Parts of the article were presented at the ASAI Conference in Catania (2016), at the Cambridge ARF (2017), and the SAHS Conference in Johannesburg (2017). I am grateful for the useful feedback received in all these occurrences, and I would like to single out the great comments by Rachel King and Mark McGranaghan. Wayne Dooling, Pierluigi Valsecchi, and Paul Landau commented on earlier drafts. I thank them and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable help. Author's email: .

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