Historicising the State: Social Power and Ugandan State Formation

Student thesis: Phd


This research employs a framework of social power, as coined by Michael Mann (1986; 1993), to understand the processes of state formation and development in Uganda. Using historical knowledge to understand the extent of social power relations in Ugandan society, the thesis assesses how these relations have shaped Ugandan state formation from the mid-1850s through to the present day. The research aims to bridge a gap between the discussions from African political theorists and historians and those of historical sociologists. It posits that state formation is a useful subject of study within the field of Development Studies, especially when it engages with historical empiricism. However, rather than providing a historically descriptive account of how the state formed, the research employs the theoretical framework of social power to guide the investigation of Ugandan state formation. Four units of analysis - ideological, political, military and economic sources of power form the basis of the approach. A historically and sociologically grounded analysis of the formation of the Ugandan state provides a contextually thick framework through which state development can be understood. By employing Mann's macro-historical sociological framework, this research aims to respond to calls not only for greater macro-theorisation, but also for history to be taken into account in development discourse. Unfortunately, the study of history and the use of historians' work is an investment of time which many development scholars struggle to afford There is an emerging critique that Development Studies scholars should not only acknowledge the historical processes underlying and framing their research, but that they should also actively engage with history to inform theoretical approaches to development.This thesis aims to demonstrate, from a historical sociology perspective, that history does matter for development and should, therefore, secure itself a place within the discipline, ensuring that Development Studies does include the study of social change in societies over long periods of time. Consequently, the analysis of this thesis argues that Mann's model of social power can cast light on development trajectories and specifically for the purpose of this study, on processes of state formation in Uganda.
Date of Award1 Aug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSamuel Hickey (Supervisor) & Tim Jacoby (Supervisor)


  • State formation
  • Historical sociology
  • Uganda
  • Michael Mann
  • State power
  • Infrastructural power

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