Mediators, Contract Men, and Colonial Capital

March 2018
3 black and white, 4 line illustrations
230 pages
9x6 in
Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora
University of Rochester Press
BISAC HIS001050, TEC026000, POL013000

Mediators, Contract Men, and Colonial Capital

Mechanized Gold Mining in the Gold Coast Colony, 1879-1909

Cassandra Mark-Thiesen

An innovative study of labor relations, particularly the interactions of recruitment agents and migrant workers, in the mining concessions of Wassa, Gold Coast Colony, 1879 to 1909.
Recent years have seen renewed interest in the historical study of labor in Africa. Unlike those of the past, these new studies are rooted in the recognition of Africa's dynamic, expansive, and productive informal sector. While this book focuses on one of West Africa's earliest large-scale industries, namely the Wassa gold mines in the southwest Gold Coast, it is not solely concerned with the traditional working class. Rather, it explores the plurality of labor relations that characterized the mining concessions during the period 1879 to 1909, including the presence of migrants from various parts of West Africa as well as casual and tributary laborers, both male and female.

In capturing the phenomenon of labor mobility as it played out in Wassa, Mediators, Contract Men, and Colonial Capital presents one of the fullest accounts of the labor agents who regularly brought groups of migrant laborers to the mines. The narrative discusses these agents' means of employment and roles in the informalization and indentureship of labor; in addition, it explores the regional dynamics of the recruitment machinery and confronts issues of coercion and choice.

Scholars interested in African history, global labor history, economic history, and women's work in Africa will find much of value in this innovative study.

Cassandra Mark-Thiesen is a Research Fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation (Marie-Heim Vögtlin Grant) in the history department of the University of Basel.

Table of Contents

Prospectors, Politicians and the Question of "Progress": The First and Second Gold Boom in Wassa
Labor Recruitment in the Nineteenth Century: The Place of Practicality
Disrupted Recruitment at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: Women, Whites, and other Labor Agents
Government Strategies for Assisting the Mines
Labor Agents, Chiefs and Officials, 1905 to 1909: The Incorporation of the Northern Territories' Labor Reserve


Provides a number of important insights into the global labour history of imperial gold mining in Wassa, as well as in a wider West African context... [An] comprehensive, informative and well-researched study is recommended for public and private libraries, and especially for historians and experts of migratory studies, mining industry and labour relations. GHANA JOURNAL OF DEVELOPMENT STUDIES

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