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Landlord and Stranger: Change in Tenancy Relations in Sierra Leone

  • V. R. Dorjahn and Christopher Fyfe

The relations between a stranger who leaves his home to settle in a distant chiefdom in Sierra Leone and his landlord have for centuries been guided by customary rules. They are of interest to the anthropologist studying contemporary society, and to the historian who can sometimes elucidate from them otherwise obscure incidents in the past. In this article we describe the landlord-stranger relationship as it exists in Sierra Leone today, then give examples of how it has been applied at earlier periods.

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1 Little, K. L., The Mende of Sierra Leone (1948), 8z.

2 Dorjahn, Unpublished field-notes, 19541955.

3 This is not to say that economic considerations do not enter into a prospective landlord's thinking. A man short of labourers will take almost any tenant so as to gain help in making his farm.

4 A Temne man looks first to his father's patrilineage, makas, for land and then, if need be, to his mother's patrilineage, makara.

5 Thomas, N. W., Anthropological Report on Sierra Leone (1916), 170. It is inferred that grantor and landlord are synonymous.

6 Little, op. cit. 93.

7 Banton, Michael, West African City (1917), 91 and 93.

8 This suggests, of course, that what was collected never was placed in the Native Administration treasury.

9 For a discussion in an official source, see the 1955 Report on the Administration of Provinces, 4.

10 Matthews, John, A Voyage to the River Sierra-Leone (1788), 142–143.

11 Winterbottom, Thomas, An Account of the Native Africans in the Neighbourhood of Sierra Leone (1803), i, 127128.

12 Zachary Macaulay Papers, Huntington Library, San Marino, California, Macaulay's Journal, 30 July 1793.

13 Winterbottom, op. cit. 214.

14 Owen, Nicholas, Journal of a Slave-Dealer (ed. Martin, E.), 1930, 69.

15 Zachary Macaulay's Journal, loc. cit.

16 Public Record Ofiice—W.O. 1/352, letter enclosed in Macaulay, 5 Sept. 1803.

17 Public Record Oflice–C.O. 270/5, minute of Council, 20 July 1797.

18 Public Record Office–C.O. 267/290 Blackall 6, 14 Jan. 1867 enc.

19 Public Record Office–C.O. 267/192 Macdonald 104, 4 June 1846.

20 Public Record Oflice–C.O. 267/301 Kennedy 133, 23 June 1869 enc.

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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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