In the Nuba hills, on the frontiers of the Islamic Sudan, a dynasty of Muslim warrior kings arose in the 18th century. Their kingdom, Taqali, survived as an independent state, resisting conquest by larger empires and coming under external control only during the 20th century. Janet Ewald has written a comprehensive account of the origins and development of the Taqali kingdom. She shows how events originating far beyond the Taqali massif allowed local Muslim soldiers to become kings of Taqali in the 18th century and then to hold onto their power. But the nature of that power was shaped by the highland farmers who stubbornly and largely successfully resisted the efforts of the kings to parlay their control over the means of coercion into control over the means of production. In this struggle religion became an ideological weapon on both sides, as the Taqali farmers asserted their local beliefs against their Muslim rulers. Political confrontations also bore unintended ecomic consequences. Because local land and labour did t become political spoils, they did t enter the domain of the market as they did in other states of the greater Nile Valley. Ewald's account of Taqali challenges current views on the impact of Islam, merchant capitalism, and Egyptian military administration in 19th-century Sudan.
Janet J. Ewald is Associate Professor of History at Duke University. Her articles on African history have appeared in a variety of scholarly journals.