A History of Indigenous Slavery in Ghana: From the 15th to the 19th Century

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In A History of Indigenous Slavery in Ghana: From the 15th to the 19th Century, Akosua Adoma Perbi offers a fascinating analysis of the institution of slavery in Ghana from the advent of Europeans to the period of complete imposition of British colonial rule in the Gold Coast. The author pins her analysis of indigenous slavery around a perspective conceptualization of slavery based on time and space, slave usage, rights and privileges, its transformation into the Atlantic trade, and campaigns towards its abolitions. She postulates the beginning of indigenous slavery from the Neolithic era where man started a sedentary life and possibly, there was a need for more hands in the iron industry for manufacturing of agricultural tools and offensive and defensive weapons for state-building as well as protection against wild animals. The book covers the dynamics of the evolution of the institution of slavery from pre-European contact to the rise of the slave trade with its resistance to fade off during the abolition era, and finally the emergence of British colonial rule.

Base on the evidence available and their judicious analysis, the author unequivocally argues that the institution of indigenous slavery has been instrumental in shaping the traditional, social, and political institutions and structures of the Ghanaian society even after its abolition. Although the practice of slavery has been outlawed Perbi emphasizes, its traces and imageries are present in Ghanaian society through oral traditions and traditional songs. Since ‘assimilation was not always complete. There were disabilities and impediments. …one may enjoy the privilege of royal association, one must not assume that this could be converted into the status of royalty’ (p. xi). Agreeing with her contemporaries, the author stresses that the communal nature of African societies for that matter Ghana preconditioned slavery as less exploitative in comparative terms.

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