The Politics of Chieftaincy

The Politics of Chieftaincy

Authority and Property in Colonial Ghana, 1920-1950

Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch


University of Rochester Press



Documents the profound societal changes that occurred in Accra, the capital city of the Gold Coast colony (modern Ghana), during the peak decades of British colonial rule, 1920-1950.
The Politics of Chieftaincy examines debates over authority and property in Accra, Ghana, during the peak decades of British colonial rule. Between 1920 and 1950, imperial policies marginalized educated elites, local authorities, and landowners in favor of Ga chiefs, whom the British authorities viewed as more loyal to the empire. Conflicts erupted throughout the city over chieftaincy, succession, and land, producing new political movements and local institutions.
Drawing on a broad range of archival records of chieftaincy and litigation cases from this era, Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch demonstrates how these disputes opened new arenas for Accra's residents to engage in dialogue about the efficacy of chieftaincy and the meaning of political authority and property. Despite the prominence of chieftaincy in the lives of the people of Accra, they were able, Sackeyfio-Lenoch shows, to critique their political traditions and adapt their institutions to new local, national, and global pressures. The volume thus offers a vital case study of Africans' responses to colonialism, modernity, and globalization, and provides an important lens for understanding urban and political processes in Africa during the first half of the twentieth century.

Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch is associate professor of African history at Dartmouth College.

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August 2014
18 black and white illustrations
256 pages
9x6 in
Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora
ISBN: 9781580464949
Format: Hardback
University of Rochester Press
BISAC HIS001050, POL053000, POL045000
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Table of Contents

Situating Ga Institutions in the European Colonial Milieu
Land Legislation, Commodification, and Effects in Accra
Negotiating Chieftancy, the Ga Stool, and Colonial Intervention
Succession Disputes, the Ga State Council, and the Future of Chieftaincy
Contesting Property in Accra and Its Periurban Locales


Grants important historical context for those studying the modern city...a valuable addition to the small number of histories which primarily concern Accra. LUCAS BULLETIN

An important addition to the historiography on the contentious processes of organization and politics in twentieth century tropical British Africa . this book sets a good example in documenting historical narratives by making use of a wide array of sources. AFRICAN STUDIES QUARTERLY

"In The Politics of Chieftaincy, Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch presents a richly detailed account of the dynamic, often inconclusive struggles over land, wealth, and office that drove chieftaincy politics among the Ga population of Accra as they faced rising immigration, intensified commercialization, and shifting strategies of state control during the heyday of colonial rule. Through disputes over landed property, Sackeyfio-Lenoch argues, Ga youth, elders, chiefs, priests, and lineages reworked the meaning of authority, probing the changing contours of their own power as a shrinking minority in the growing colonial capital." --Sara Berry, author of Chiefs Know Their Boundaries: Essays on Property, Power, and the Past in Asante, 1896-1996

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