AbstractThis paper examines the influence of traditional leaders, or "chiefs," in sub-Saharan Africa, and how their power varies within and among 19 African countries. The authors argue that the power of traditional chiefs is influenced not only by state policies of indirect rule, as previous research has suggested, but also by local factors such as land quality. They find that traditional chiefs have more power in areas with higher agricultural potential and land quality, likely because citizens in these areas rely on traditional chiefs to define and defend their land rights beyond the protections provided by state institutions. The authors suggest that while land quality may not have been an important factor in state formation in the pre-colonial period, it has become increasingly important in the past half century as population densities have increased and agriculture has become more intensive. Controls are also introduced.