A work of considerable originality in sandwich form: first and last, theoretical remarks on organized violence as an instrument of political control within a society. In between, descriptions of various regimes in preindustrial African communities, in which chiefs and kings sustained a complicated terroristic rule. By itself, the anthropo-sociological study of Zulu despotism would be worthwhile both for its analytic refinements of the topic and for sheer information value; Shaka was a remarkable structural reformer as well as a spectacular tyrant, and the transition to kingship in a colonial context is extremely interesting. Walter's general thesis is bound to gain wider attention with its approach to terrorism not as a weapon against outside enemies or a ruler's aberration, but as a systematic means of maintaining authority, supported by tradition and consent as well as fear. Walter refrains from discussing all but the most important classical theories of despotism, and those briefly. He intends next to interpret terrorism in more ""advanced"" societies; further discussion is needed to thicken the filling here. With its potential value for African-studies readers as well as professional social scientists, the book should find a ready audience.