The Fante and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Article excerpt

The Fante and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. By Rebecca Shumway. Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2011. Pp. x, 232; illustrations, maps, photographs, tables, notes, bibliography, index. $85.88/£40.00 cloth.

The author begins her conclusion with the statement that by 1807 southern Ghana was a very different place from the Gold Coast of 1700. Her statement reminded me of another statement, namely that the differentiation of human experience stems above all from questions of scale. The focus of Shumway' s monograph is on the transformative development of Borbor Fante state- society, development in the sense of an expanded organization of scale. In the eighteenth century, the Borbor Fante formed the core of what the author calls the "Coastal Coalition" (ca. 1724-1807), and in the Fante language Mfantse Ahemfo Nhyiamu. Its port, Anomabo, became the leading slave exporting center on the eighteenth-century Gold Coast. The Coalition was inextricably tied to the transAtlantic slave economy. In this context it is relevant to situate the Coalition in a larger narrative like that of D.W. Meinig, a historical geographer. In his monumental work on the shaping of the Americas before the nineteenth century, Meinig maintains that the transfer of labor out of Africa was greater than the transfer of labor out of Europe. Shumway' s monograph reveals in convincing detail the Coalition's mode and scale of organizing labor transfers and the impact that forced labor transfers had on Coalition society.

The study includes a useful list of dates pertaining to various local events from ca. 1400 to 1874, an introduction, four chapters, a conclusion, and comprehensive endnotes. There are three maps, two of which are not legible to the naked eye, eleven photographs taken by the author in 2000, 2001, and 2009, and four tables. Three tables relate to the volume of Gold Coast slave exports in the 1626-1805 period. The fourth table details payments made by Anomabo Fort to different categories of Fantes in and around Anomabo between December 1752 and December 1753. There is also a reproduction of a mideighteenth-century portrait of William Ansah Sessarakoo, son of a prominent Anomabo ruler. The study is based on oral interviews with town and village elders, archival and library resources in England and Ghana, and a broad and varied range of scholarly studies pertaining to Atlantic Africa and West and Central Africa.

The Introduction addresses methodological and conceptual issues pertaining to the use and meanings/identities of terms like "Fante" and "Akan" in Ghanaian historiography. …