Forts, Castles and Society in West Africa

Gold Coast and Dahomey, 1450 - 1960


Long regarded as disturbing remnants of the Atlantic slave trade, the European forts and castles of West Africa have attained iconic positions as universally significant historical monuments and world heritage tourist destinations. This volume of original contributions by leading Africanists presents extensive new historical views of the forts in Ghana and Benin, providing both impetus and a scholarly basis for further research and fresh debate about their historical and geographical contexts; their role in the slave trade; the economic and political connections, centred on the forts, between the Europeans and local African polities; and their place in variously focused heritage studies and endeavours.

Contributors are Hermann W. von Hesse, Daniel Hopkins, Jon Olav Hove, Ole Justesen, Ineke van Kessel, Robin Law, John Kwadwo Osei-Tutu, Jarle Simensen, Selena Axelrod Winsnes†, Larry Yarak.
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EUR €67.00USD $80.00

Biographical Note

John Kwadwo Osei-Tutu, Ph.D. (2000), Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), is Associate Professor of History (African and World) at NTNU. He has published a monograph, many articles and edited volumes, including (with Victoria Ellen Smith) Shadows of Empire in West Africa: New Perspectives on European fortifications (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).

Table of contents

List of Figures
Notes on Contributors

1 Introduction: Forts, Castles, and Society in West Africa
John Kwadwo Osei-Tutu
2 Gold Coast Forts and Castles: Key Themes and Perspectives
Jarle Simensen
3 ‘Heaven Is High Above, and Europe Is Far Away’, so Christiansborg Prevails
Selena Axelrod Winsnes
4 ‘Creative and Expedient Misunderstandings’: Elmina-Dutch Relations in the 19th Century
Larry Yarak
5 Wax Prints in West Africa: Unravelling the Myth of Dutch Colonial Soldiers as Cultural Brokers
Ineke van Kessel
6 William’s Fort: The English Fort at Ouidah, 1680s–1960s
Robin Law
7 The Danish Guinea Coast Forts, Denmark’s Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade, and African Colonial Policy, 1788–1850
Daniel Hopkins
8 Political Relations between Osu and Christiansborg, 1803–1826
Ole Justesen
9 Cosmopolitan Conundrums: Impacts of Trade Fortresses on the Gã Space, 1450–1870
John Kwadwo Osei-Tutu and Hermann W. von Hesse
10 Forts and Castles in the Colonial Period: Uses and Understandings of the Pre-colonial Fortifications
Jon Olav Hove


All interested in the history of European imperialism and in the dynamics of African-European interaction in West Africa up to the 1960s.

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