View Full Version : Please recommend a good book on 18th-century West Africa

08-28-2001, 11:43 AM
I summon the wise and irascible Collounsbury! And anyone else who knows a lot about Africa.

I need to read a book that will give me a good picture of what everyday life was like in the approximate vicinity of the Gold Coast around the time 1690-1720, particularly amongst the Ashanti and their neighbors. Such a book should, of course, include the impact of the slave trade, but should not be exclusively devoted to it. Narrative political history is not the main thing I'm looking for; what I really need is material on marriage, religion, education, clothing, and suchlike cultural/atmospheric background. My objective is to be able to invent plausible fictional characters who were born and raised on the Gold Coast.

Many thanks to all who can recommend such a book (or combination of books) to me.

Ellen Cherry
08-28-2001, 11:57 AM
Not that I could even pretend to be particularly helpful, Danimal, but I immediately thought of Alex Haley's Roots. I wonder what his source materials were? The Africa section of the book was rich with detail about village life.

08-28-2001, 12:04 PM
Black Like Me
John H. Griffin

Captain Amazing
08-28-2001, 12:26 PM
While Griffin's Black Like Me was a good book, it really won't give you much information about the 18th century Ashanti.

08-28-2001, 04:41 PM

Thanks for the recommendation, Ellen. Haley's ancestor Kunta Kinte was from the Gambia, a good distance from the region I'm looking for, but I'll look at his sources and see if any of them cover an area wide enough to include the Guinea Coast.

I read Black Like Me many years ago. As [b]Captain Amazing[/i] says, it is a good book, but quite useless for my current project. Black life in America in the 1950s had about as much to do with the 18th-century Ashanti as white life at the same time had to do with the Vikings.

08-28-2001, 05:08 PM
Danimal: The only thing I have that comes close ( at least on my own shelves ) is The Fall of the Asante Empire: The Hundred-Year War for Africa's Gold Coast by Robert B. Edgerton ( 1995, The Free Press, A Division of Simon & Schuster Inc. ). It's essentially a military history of British/Asante relations between 1807 and 1900. But it does go into a little bit ( one of 10 chapters ) of Asante history, society, et al .

Going through his bibliography yielded up a couple of possibilities:

Fynn, J.K. ( 1971 ) Asante and its Neighbors 1700-1807. Evanston: North-Western University Press.

Schildekrout, E., ed. ( 1987 ) The Golden Stool: Studies of the Asante Center and Periphery. Washington, D.C.: American Museum of Natural History.

Their are others, but these two looked modern enough to be findable. The second one, in particular, looked like it had a couple of articles related to what you seem to be interested in. You might also try searching Amazon or other resources for keywords like "Dahomey" and the like, to get a better coverage. I don't off the top of my head know of any general histories of West Africa in that specific period. Which doesn't mean there isn't one.

- Tamerlane

08-28-2001, 05:23 PM
I remember reading a great novelization set in this time period - Segu or Segou is the name, had to read it for a class. It won't give you close to what you need but might be fun and give you some further ideas for research.

08-28-2001, 06:47 PM
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Danimal
I summon the wise and irascible Collounsbury!

He is *irascible* isn't he? I like to think of Collie as the "intellectual hyena" of the Boards. Or maybe a jackal, if that pleases him more.

BTW, Basil Davidson has written many excellent books about West African societies. None will disappoint.

08-29-2001, 09:14 AM
Thank each of you, Magdalene and tsunamisurfer and especially Tamerlane, who came through as he so often does. I am disappointed that I couldn't obtain Collounsbury's opinion (his e-mail address does not appear to be publicly available, or else I would have invited him personally to the thread), but this should be enough to get me started.

08-29-2001, 09:18 AM
It was meant as a joke butt I'm quickly starting to see how a lot of people here prefer to pounce instead of smile. Please strike above reply.

09-02-2001, 05:00 PM
Sorry folks, I'm on vac for the moment and thus away from my feeding ground. Jackal I do prefer.

As far as references, well, I shall have to root around in old files but generally do NOT depend on Roots for gods sake. Romantic claptrap. If you're looking for something popular then Basil Davidson is a good choice although he is not a terribly good historian, in fact he's a journalist with a tendency to credulity in re the more extreme claims made by the looney fringe. However he's basically reliable and an easier read. Otherwise I would recommend the sober Cambridge series on African history as a place to start with citations galore to the real deal. Rather how I started out. Something like J. F. Ade Ajayi,
_History of West Africa _ would prob be a good start although a little dated. Also something by Fage also> In general post 1980 works I think will prove more useful.

Hope this helps.

By the way lieu, as this is a board dedicated to fighting ignorance (albeit IMHO) stupid replies tend to get jumped on. Especially ones that really don't bring a smile at all. Stop whinging.

09-02-2001, 07:30 PM
Moderator's note:

I'm guessing the literary types over in Cafe Society will salivate over this question. Movin' it on over...

for IMHO

09-04-2001, 01:51 PM
Thanks for the tip, Collounsbury. I'll be taking a look at vol. 4 of the Cambridge history and at Ajayi's book as soon as I'm done with Fynn's book on the Asante and their neighbors.

($160 for the Cambridge volume?! I'll definitely be doing interlibrary loan on that one!)

09-05-2001, 06:21 PM
Not at all, and if I decide to do less drinking and more rummaging I shall try to provide more citations. But I am on vac you know.