Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

Yaa Asantewaa and the Asante-British War of 1900-1

Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

Yaa Asantewaa and the Asante-British War of 1900-1

Article excerpt

Yaa Asantewaa and the Asante-British War of 1900-1. By A. Adu Boahen; edited by Emmanuel Akyeampong. East Lansing: Michigan State University; Oxford: James Currey; and Accra: Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2003. Pp. 182. $24.95.

Albert Adu Boahen has written a concise history of Yaa Asantewaa and the war she led to end British colonization of the Asante Kingdom in 1900-01. Over the last century, Yaa Asantewaa has become a symbol of Asante, Ghanaian, and African nationalism, of anticolonial struggle and, more recently, of women's leadership. Surprisingly little research has been done on her life. Adu Boahen's book makes an important contribution to filling this gap in the historical record. Further, the book's detailed description of the weapons and strategies used by the Asante and the British adds to the growing field of African military history.

In Yaa Asantewaa and the Asante-British War, Adu Boahen examines "the most famous, the most interesting, and the most decisive of the Anglo-Asante wars" (p. 27). He brings together documentary evidence written by British participants with Asante oral histories, many that he collected himself, to produce an authoritative account of the war. The first chapter treats the causes of the war and the last examines Asante's final defeat. The middle chapters are devoted to "the weapons and the strategies used in war," "the duration and phases of the war," and "the role of Yaa Asantewaa in the war." While this structure bleeds the narrative of some of its drama, it does facilitate analysis of the war.

While the Anglo-Asante War of 1900-01 is widely known as the Yaa Asantewaa War, the role played by the queen mother in the conflict is controversial. In many oral histories of the war, Yaa Asantewaa's role was confined to inspiring the resistance: "Yaa did not fight. She stayed in Edweso town" (p. 122). Adu Boahen has found ample documentary evidence that Yaa Asantewaa was "the overall leader and Commander-in-Chief of the Asante forces" (p. 128): "Yaa Asantewaa did appear on the battlefields, and at some battlefronts even in full battle array and with a gun, she did so not to fight herself but to encourage the Asantes" (p. …

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