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  • Cited by 4
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    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Vaughan, Chris 2014. ‘Demonstrating the Machine Guns’: Rebellion, Violence and State Formation in Early Colonial Darfur. The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Vol. 42, Issue. 2, p. 286.

    Sachs, Jeffrey Adam 2013. “Native Courts” and the Limits of the Law in Colonial Sudan: Ambiguity as Strategy. Law & Social Inquiry, Vol. 38, Issue. 4, p. 973.

    Vaughan, Christopher 2013. The Borderlands of South Sudan.

    Berridge, W.J. 2012. Ambivalent ideologies and the limitations of the colonial prison in Sudan, 1898–1956. Journal of Eastern African Studies, Vol. 6, Issue. 3, p. 444.



  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 March 2005

Recent scholarship on ‘neo-traditionalism’ and colonial governance in Africa has challenged assumptions about the ‘invention of tradition’ and the ability of the colonial state to create wholly innovative kinds of local authority. This article explores one episode in the development of the authority of Ali el Tom, probably the most famous ‘traditional’ ruler in Condominium Sudan. It suggests that Ali el Tom's authority was a creole product, which drew on local moral codes and colonial forms of authority, but was not fully part of either. The willingness of his people to accept this sometimes abusive authority relied on a partly illusory sense that it was familiar; but this willingness was not unlimited, and on occasion actions from below set limits to the invention of authority and tradition.

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I should like to thank the anonymous referees of the Journal, and the members of the seminar group at the Institute of African and Asian Studies, University of Khartoum and the African Studies seminar of the University of Oxford, all of whom endured earlier versions of this paper. I should also like to express my thanks to the staff of the Sudan Archive at Durham and the National Records Office, Khartoum. Research for this paper was made possible by an AHRB project grant.
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The Journal of African History
  • ISSN: 0021-8537
  • EISSN: 1469-5138
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-african-history
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