Murder and Politics in Colonial Ghana (Hardcover)

By Richard Rathbone

Yale University Press, 9780300055047, 256pp.

Publication Date: June 23, 1993

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Description

In 1943, ritual murder was committed in a large African kingdom in the south of Ghana, then a colony of Great Britain. Palace officials and close kin of a recently deceased king had reputedly killed one of his chiefs in order to smooth the king's passage into the afterlife. This riveting study tells the story of the murder, the trials and appeals of those accused of the crime, and the effect of the case on politics in Ghana and Great Britain. In recounting this fascinating case, the book also provides important insights into law and politics in the colonial Gold Coast, the clash between traditional and modern values, and the nature of African monarchy in the colonial period.

Drawing on newly available oral and written evidence from Ghana and Britain, Richard Rathbone builds a detailed picture of the leading characters in the case, as well as of the thirty-year rule of Nana Ofori Atta, the king. He shows how the death of the king destroyed the economic, social, and moral fabric of the kingdom, and how this destruction was further exacerbated by legal proceedings resulting from the murder. The case set the indigenous royal family against the colonial government, challenging the authority of each. Close kinsmen of the accused, hitherto in the vanguard of moderate nationalism, were radicalized by their extended confrontation with the colonial justice system. It was their political initiatives that accelerated the formation of the Gold Coast's first national political party in the late 1940s, and which led in turn to the struggle for self-government and to the achievement of Ghanian independence in 1957.