Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana

By Carola Lentz | Go to book overview

2
THE INTRODUCTION
OF CHIEFTAINCY

In October 1897, H. P. Northcott was appointed Commissioner and Commandant of the Northern Territories, with the task of controlling areas in the hinterland of the Gold Coast that were tied to Great Britain under treaties of friendship or protection. The Anglo-French Convention of 1898 delineated the territorial boundaries of the new protectorate, while the Northern Territories Order in Council of 1901 defined its legal status as formally independent protectorate, though at the same time subject to the Gold Coast Governor. The British had brought the Northern Territories under their control in order to prevent European rivals from establishing themselves along the trade routes from Kumasi to the north. However, neither the Colonial Office nor the Governor of the Gold Coast had a clear idea of what to do with this new appendage of the Gold Coast Colony, except that its administration should cost as little as possible. Northcott and his successors, Morris and Watherston, stated ‘opening up the country and facilitating commercial intercourse’ to be the main goal. This required the pacification of the region and the mobilisation of labour to carry goods and build roads. In the context of such plans, ‘native chiefs’ were to be the pillars of a ‘scheme of government of the simplest and most economic form’.1

This chapter deals with the introduction of chieftaincy in the formerly chiefless societies of the North-West – a process guided by colonial officials’ normative ideas of ‘tribes’ and ‘native states’, which deliberately denied local realities, while at the same time gradually transforming the latter so that they more closely resembled British expectations. The pre-colonial structures to which the new chiefdoms attached themselves differed from case to case. This question was also intensely debated on the spot, because the new chiefs as well as their competitors and opponents sought to support political claims by referring to pre-colonial traditions and to how the British set up the first chiefs. A typical model appears to have been the recruitment of the first chiefs from the local ‘strongmen’. However, not everywhere did these first chiefs also belong to the earth priest’s patrilineage, and even where they did, the offices of earth priest and chief were from the very beginning separate. The extent of the new chiefdoms was therefore defined

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Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Maps and Plates vi
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The North-West in the Nineteenth Century 14
  • 2 - The Introduction of Chieftaincy 33
  • 3 - The Discursive Creation of Ethnicity 72
  • 4 - The Lawra Confederacy Native Authority 104
  • 5 - Labour Migration, Home-Ties and Ethnicity 138
  • 6 - ‘Light over the Volta’- The Mission of the White Fathers 153
  • 7 - Decolonisation and Local Government Reform 175
  • 8 - ‘The Time When Politics Came’- Party Politics and Local Conflict 199
  • 9 - Ethnic Movements and Special-Interest Politics 228
  • 10 - The Cultural Work of Ethnicity 252
  • Epilogue 275
  • Notes 280
  • Abbreviations 322
  • Glossary 323
  • Divisional (Paramount) Chiefs of Lawra District 324
  • References 325
  • Index 337
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