This is a study of the changing rules and relationships within which natural, human and man-made resources were mobilized for production during the development of an agricultural export economy in Asante, a major West African kingdom which became, by 1945, the biggest regional contributor to Ghana's status as the world's largest cocoa producer. The period 1807-1956 as a whole was distinguished in Asante history by relatively favorable political conditions for indigenous as well as [during colonial rule] for foreign private enterprise. It saw generally increasing external demands for products that could be produced on Asante land. This book, which fills a major gap in Asante economic history, transcends the traditional divide between studies of precolonial and of twentieth-century African history. It analyses the interaction of coercion and the market in the context of a rich but fragile natural environment, the central process being a transition from slavery and debt-bondage to hired labor and agricultural indebtedness. It contributes to the broad debate about Africa's historic combination of emerging 'capitalist' institutions and persistent "precapitalist" ones, and tests the major theories of the political economy of institutional change. It is written accessibly for an interdisciplinary readership.
Gareth Austin is a Lecturer in Economic History, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Joint Editor of the Journal of African History.
[Austin] is able to familiarize Africanists with important developments in economic history as well as combat the marginalization of African economic history that, like so much in African studies, has fallen victim to a preoccupation with contemporary problems. The result is a work that is as rich and diverse in its offerings as the rain forest environment that it describes. AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW, 2006 [Roger Gocking]
This is an excellent work, a major contribution to literature on the kingdom of Asante, an African society that has in the last 25 years attracted more than its fair share of high-quality scholarship. --Larry Yarak, Associate Professor of History, Texas A&M University
Austin's book is a groundbreaking survey of Ghana's economic history, based upon an extraordinarily perceptive case study of Asante. It is painstakingly researched and combines a strong empirical base with highly relevant theoretical considerations of current models of institutional change. He has written what will surely become a classic in the field of African economic development. --Ivor Wilks, Professor Emeritus of History, Northwestern University
Long anticipated, Austin's account of the material conditions in which the ordinary Asante people of Ghana lived their lives is an exemplary retrieval of the past. All at once richly documented, theoretically sophisticated and persuasively argued, it is a major contribution to African studies and to the wider field of economic history. --T.C. McCaskie, Professor of Asante history, University of Birmingham, UK
The overwhelming impression left on the reader is one of awe. . . . The readability of the book matches the importance of the arguments made, and it makes without doubt a very substantial contribution to . . . our knowledge about the transformation of slave trade in the economies of [West] Africa in the nineteenth century. INTERNATIONAL REVIEW OF SOCIAL HISTORY, 2006
Austin's economic history of the agricultural and labour patterns of pre-colonial and colonial central Ghana may be considered a magnum opus . . . it represents a crowning achievement and the product of many years of careful research and analysis. AFRICA: THE JOURNAL OF THE INTERNATIONAL AFRICAN INSTITUTE [Benjamin N. Lawrance]