The Role of Social Stratification in the Aztec Empire: A View from the Provinces

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This paper explores the role of social stratification in the regional organization of the Triple Alliance, or Aztec empire. Unlike previous interpretations that see military coercion as the main force integrating the empire, I argue that the primary integrative factor was collusion between rulers of the core states and the nobility of the provinces, who gained economic rewards for their participation in the tribute empire. The common interest of the Mesoamerican nobility transcended political boundaries. The fundamental social and economic cleavage in Postclassic Mesoamerica was not between the Triple Alliance states and the provinces, as many have argued, but rather between the nobles and the commoners. The proposed model is supported through examination of the provincial polity of Cuauhnahuac in western Morelos, Mexico. 1986 American Anthropological Association

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-91
Number of pages22
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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