Before British rule in Nigeria Igbo society was fragmented and had no centralized government. There were Igbo villages spread throughout Nigeria that had their own leadership and social structure. Therefore the Igbo did not have a strong identity as a whole. Separate villages had differences in customs and culture, although there were similarities as well. Within a specific Igbo community government was often similar to democracy. The leaders in Igbo society were men who held titles. The society was a meritocracy. Leadership was not hereditary. High ranking men who held titles were not considered kings but rather helped run assemblies. Although these men presided over assemblies, everyone had a chance to speak and offer an opinion. There were a few exceptions to this such as the Igbo town of Onitsha, which was ruled by a king. The Igbo people also practiced a traditional polytheistic religion before Imperialism brought Christianity. Igbo communities traded with each other although the economy was primarily based off of subsistence farming of crops such as yams. Communities were based around markets. Sharecropping also played a large role in Igbo society. Wealthy Igbo loaned land and seedling yams to less wealthy farmers in return for a sizable portion of their crop. Hard work was valued so even the wealthiest participated in farming. Wealth was measured in yams, even the Igbo had a primitive currency known as cowries. All of this would change with the arrival of British colonizers and Christian missionaries.