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“It is All He Can Do to Cope with the Roads in His Own District”: Labor, Community, and Development in Northern Ghana, 1919–1936*

  • Alice Wiemers (a1)

Abstract

In the 1920s and 1930s, colonial officials in Ghana's Northern Territories formulated the first development plans for this hinterland region. Administrators recast local roads and bridges as instruments of agricultural production and began to pursue small-scale resettlement efforts. In the absence of colonial funding, officials layered the requirements of development onto existing forced labor policies that took northerners to the cocoa- and gold-producing South. Using records from neighboring districts in the Northern Province, this article asks how demands for labor helped define the practice, experience, and limits of colonial authority. Intraregional mobility became a particular concern of officials as northerners began to “vote with their feet” to avoid forced labor. This article examines knotty cases in which questions of migration drew officials into local struggles to attract followers and manage the burdens of an extractive state. Northerners forced colonial officials to treat labor not just as something that could be extracted from bodies, but also as a political act involving subjects, chiefs, and officials. This article concludes in the early 1930s, when signers of the ILO's Forced Labour Convention formalized exceptions for labor that was demanded in the “direct interest of the community” or constituted “minor communal services.” Far from eliminating state claims to labor, these initiatives increasingly enshrined them in emerging practices of development.

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Copyright

Footnotes

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*

I would like to thank Benedetta Rossi for her leadership and guidance in the preparation of this special issue. Brian Wood provided invaluable research assistance by identifying relevant passages from several years of district files. I would also like to thank the journal's two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

Footnotes

References

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NOTES

1. Letter from DC A.W. Cardinall to the Acting Commissioner of Northern Province, June 14, 1919, Public Records and Archives Administration, Accra, Ghana (hereafter cited as PRAAD-Accra) ADM56/1/278.

2. Letter from H.M. Berkeley, Commissioner of the Northwestern Province, to H.W. Leigh, Acting Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories, Oct 27, 1919, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278.

3. Thomas, Roger, “Forced Labour in British West Africa: The Case of the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast 1906–1927,” Journal of African History 14 (1973): 79103 .

4. Brukum, N.J.K., “Sir Gordon Guggisberg and Socio-Economic Development of Northern Ghana, 1919–1927,” Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana, 9 (2005): 115 .

5. Lentz, Carola, Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana (Edinburgh, 2006), 57 .

6. Allman, Jean and argue, John Parker, “Outside of moments of direct coercion, the British presence [in the region] only made a difference in people's daily lives when it was allotted a role in local narratives, that is, when it intersected with local configurations of power.Tongnaab: The History of a West African God (Bloomington, IN, 2005), 91 .

7. Some archival material from the Public Records and Archives Administration, Tamale, Ghana (hereafter cited as PRAAD-Tamale) has been digitized and made available through the British Library's Endangered Archives Programme (hereafter cited as EAP) at http://eap.bl.uk. For this material, where possible, I have included the original record number from PRAAD-Tamale followed by the reference from EAP in parentheses. Where an EAP reference is not given, files were accessed in person at PRAAD-Tamale.

8. Akurang-Parry, Kwabena Opare, “Colonial Forced Labor Policies for Road-Building in Southern Ghana and International Anti-Forced Labor Pressures, 1900–1940,” African Economic History 28 (2000): 125 ; Iliasu, A. A., “The Establishment of British Administration in Mamprugu, 1898–1937,” Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana 16 (1975): 128 ; Thomas, “Forced Labour.”

9. Miers, Suzanne, Slavery in the Twentieth Century: The Evolution of a Global Problem (Walnut Creek, CA, 2003), 141–42.

10. International Labour Organization (ILO), Convention CO29, “Forced Labour Convention,” June 28, 1930. http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C029.

11. In his comprehensive treatment of the relationship between British antiforced labor activism and what became known as “communal” labor in Kenya, Opolot Okia convincingly argues that opposition to forced labor on major public works projects like the Uasin-Gishu Railway worked to legitimize other forms of unpaid labor, particularly those that could be rationalized as “communal” duties. See Okia, Opolot, Communal Labor in Colonial Kenya: The Legitimization of Coercion, 1912–1930 (New York, 2012), especially chapters 5 and 6.

12. Bening, R. B., “Colonial Development Policy in Northern Ghana 1898–1950,” Bulletin of the Ghana Geographical Association 17 (1975): 6579 ; Iliasu, “The Establishment of British Administration in Mamprugu”; Plange, Nii K., “Underdevelopment in Northern Ghana: Natural Causes or Colonial Capitalism?Review of African Political Economy 15/16 (1979): 414 ; Sutton, Inez, “Colonial Agricultural Policy: The Non-Development of the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 22 (1989): 637–69. Brukum points out that even Guggisberg's explicit statements rejecting previous neglect did not change the fundamental treatment of the region as a labor reserve. See Brukum, “Sir Gordon Guggisberg,” 6.

13. Grischow, Jeffrey, Shaping Tradition: Civil Society, Community and Development in Colonial Northern Ghana, 1899–1957 (Leiden, 2006), 1516 . Grischow echoes Cowen and Shenton's foundational argument that British “doctrines of development” in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries incorporated the idea of colonial trusteeship in order to make development the object of state policy and to reconcile ideas of progress and of community. Cowen, M. P. and Shenton, R.W., Doctrines of Development (London, 2005), chapter 1, especially 53–55.

14. The quotation is from Cooper, Frederick and Packard, Randall M., eds., International Development and the Social Sciences: Essays on the History and Politics of Knowledge (Berkeley, 1997), 4 . For longer discussions of development as discourse, ideology, and practice over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, see Cowen and Shenton, Doctrines of Development and Hodge, Joseph Morgan, Triumph of the Expert: Agrarian Doctrines of Development and the Legacies of British Colonialism (Athens, OH, 2007). Depending on the scope of a study and an author's approach, a work on development in Africa can begin in the second half of the nineteenth century, in the 1920s with British and French ideas of state-led development and mise en valeur, or in the acceleration of planning and the addition of metropolitan funding in the period after the Second World War. For articulations of each argument, see, respectively, Hodge, Triumph of the Expert, 1–20; Van Beusekom, Monica M., Negotiating Development: African Farmers and Colonial Experts at the Office Du Niger, 1920–1960 (Heinemann, 2002); and Cooper, Frederick, “Writing the History of Development,” Journal of Modern European History 8 (2010): 523 . While sometimes framed as debates about origins, these different perspectives might be better understood as a reflection of development's malleability as a historical and historiographical object.

15. Akurang-Parry, “Colonial Forced Labor Policies”; Iliasu, “The Establishment of British Administration in Mamprugu”; Thomas, “Forced Labour”; Keese, Alexander, “Slow Abolition within the Colonial Mind: British and French Debates about ‘Vagrancy,’ ‘African Laziness,’ and Forced Labour in West Central and South Central Africa, 1945–1965,” International Review of Social History 59 (2014): 377407 ; Van Beusekom, Negotiating Development. A prominent recent exception is Rossi, Benedetta, From Slavery to Aid: Politics, Labour, and Ecology in the Nigerien Sahel, 1800–2000 (Cambridge, 2015), which highlights the complex relationships among private and state-led practices of forced labor in southern Niger's Ader region over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Libbie Freed's work on road building in French Central Africa does excellent work to explore ideologies and practices of forced labor in a low-resource context. See Libbie Freed, “Conduits of Culture and Control: Roads in Colonial French Central Africa, 1890–1960” (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, 2006). For a general survey of the continued legal ambiguities regarding forced labor, see Miers, Slavery in the Twentieth Century.

16. Staniland, Martin, The Lions of Dagbon: Political Change in Northern Ghana (Cambridge, 1975), 39 ; Grischow, Shaping Tradition, 23.

17. Staniland, The Lions of Dagbon, 44.

18. Kimble, David, A Political History of Ghana; the Rise of Gold Coast Nationalism, 1850–1928 (Oxford, 1963), 534 ; Grischow, Shaping Tradition, 47. Staniland quotes an earlier statement from Governor Hodgson in 1899 that not “a single penny more than was absolutely necessary” would be expended on the area. Staniland, The Lions of Dagbon, 43.

19. With much more limited success, officials sporadically recruited labor for southern mines. The North also became a primary site of recruitment for the Gold Coast Regiment during the First World War. For more on the relationships among different demands for forced labor in the South, see Thomas, “Forced Labour,” and Thomas, Roger, “Military Recruitment in the Gold Coast during the First World War,” Cahiers d’Études Africaines 15 (1975): 5783 . For more on forced labor and trekking, see Staniland, The Lions of Dagbon, 45–48.

20. Staniland notes that 1,344 carriers were recruited in the Western Dagomba district in 1920, representing what the DC estimated as “ten-thousand man-days” of lost agricultural labor. Staniland, The Lions of Dagbon, 46.

21. Grischow, Shaping Tradition, 31–32. For example, in January of 1919, DC Michael Dasent in Tumu reported that while supervising “improvement” in Tumu town, “The Chief of Tumu has at last realized that it is one of the privileges of a chief to be able to obtain labour for the improvement of his house, which he is now doing.” January 1919, Tumu Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.5 (EAP541/1/4/5). While domestic enslavement existed in the Northern Territories, indications are that forced labor recruited by chiefs relied on a variety of relationships of dependence and would have fallen on a variety of constituents. It is unclear from the records exactly how different chiefs raised labor, but there is little indication that enslaved people were a particular target.

22. Ibid., 39. See also Lentz, Ethnicity, chapter 2, 33–71; Allman and Parker, Tongnaab, chapter 2, 72–104.

23. The comparable figures in Ashanti and the Colony were 17,425 people/1,006 square miles and 27,253 people/593 square miles. Staniland, The Lions of Dagbon, 46–47.

24. As Allman and Parker argue, “British administration … was experienced as brutal, illegitimate, and unpredictable, but it was also encountered unevenly, episodically, and in ways that were often marginal to the rituals and work of daily life.” Allman and Parker, Tongnaab, 90.

25. Contemporary spellings varied among Navarro/Navaro/Navoro and Zuaragu/Zuarugu. Cardinall began his time in the Gold Coast Civil Service as a 27-year-old in 1914 and was first posted to the North in 1916. Staniland offers details of the educational and military background of a number of northern administrators as well as their dates of service in the colony and in the North; see Staniland, The Lions of Dagbon, 48–49.

26. The book was published in 1920. See Cardinall, A. W., The Natives of the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast, Their Customs, Religion and Folklore (London, 1920). Cardinall's district diaries are sporadic and vague in reporting labor recruitment and works construction. In early 1919, he wrote of progress on roads and station buildings, but he also discussed the need to limit labor demands because of the district's heavy losses from the influenza epidemic, which he estimated had killed ten thousand residents by January. In November of 1919, he reported that he preferred “voluntary” and “private” recruiting for railway labor rather than recruitment by DCs. January–November 1919, Navrongo-Zuarungu Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.3 (EAP541/1/4/3).

27. March and October 1919, Navrongo-Zuarungu Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.3 (EAP541/1/4/3).

28. August and September 1919, Navrongo-Zuarungu Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.3 (EAP541/1/4/3).

29. July 1919, Navrongo-Zuarungu Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.3 (EAP541/1/4/3).

30. Staniland, The Lions of Dagbon, 49. Allman and Parker confirm the months of dry season labor demands: Tongnaab, 60.

31. See Allman and Parker, Tongnaab, 86–87.

32. March and July 1920, Navrongo-Zuarungu Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.10 (EAP541/1/4/10).

33. July 1920, Navrongo-Zuarungu Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.10 (EAP541/1/4/10).

34. August 1920, Navrongo-Zuarungu Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.10 (EAP541/1/4/10).

35. The administrative urgency of the trip, however, seems to have heightened the danger of travel. In September, after complaining of the “nuisance” of “dealing with deserters from Railway labor,” Freeman relayed the news from two such “deserters” that two men had drowned while trying to cross a flooded road. September 1920, Navrongo-Zuarungu Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.10 (EAP541/1/4/10).

36. When questioned by Freeman, a headman from Bare reported, “The clerk they were handed to said they would have to go underground,” which lead his entire gang to refuse the work. October 1920, Navrongo-Zuarungu Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.10 (EAP541/1/4/10). Thomas argues that northern migrants to the mines were often tasked with “the dangerous and unpleasant underground work.” See Thomas, “Forced Labour,” 80.

37. He reported, for example, that he “collected 46 deserted labourers, paid them extra subsistence and sent them back.” October 1920, Navrongo-Zuarungu Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.10 (EAP541/1/4/10). The official terminology of “desertion” and the existence of punishments further confirm that there was little that was “voluntary” about labor recruitment.

38. June 1920, Tumu Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.9 (EAP541/1/4/9). Jeffisi is often “Jeffies” in colonial diaries.

39. July 1920, Tumu Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.9 (EAP541/1/4/9).

40. Ibid.

41. August 1920, Tumu Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.9 (EAP541/1/4/9), remarking on work at Bellu. Shields was transferred to Wa District in August.

42. October 1920, Lawra Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.15 (EAP541/1/4/15).

43. August 1920, Lawra Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.15 (EAP541/1/4/15). The poem is from Adamu (E.C. Adams), Lyra Nigeria (London, 1911). The full text can be found at http://www.archive.org/stream/lyranigeriae00adamiala/lyranigeriae00adamiala_djvu.txt.

44. September and October 1920, Lawra Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.15 (EAP541/1/4/15). On September 3, Duncan-Johnstone noted that the chief of Lambussie was observing roads in Lawra to make his own. On September 11, he wrote that the chief of Nandaw was widening his road, and in October he argued that road widening signaled that “all the Chiefs seem keen on making a name for themselves.” He also noted in September that the newly installed magajia (women's leader) in Lawra had organized 500 women to do road labor around town.

45. Staniland, The Lions of Dagbon, 52–53.

46. Grischow argues that from the early twentieth century, successive waves of development ideology in the colonial North were consistently conceived by administers as “preserving community.” See Grischow, Shaping Tradition.

47. Ibid., 60.

48. Ibid., 60–61.

49. For an excellent study of automobility in Ghana, including more on the contradictions between ambition and funding in Guggisberg's road building plans, see Hart, Jennifer, Ghana on the Go: African Mobility in the Age of Motor Transportation (Bloomington, IN, 2016), chapter 1. For more on the relationship between road labor and French ideologies of mise en valeur in the 1920s, see Freed, “Conduits of Culture and Control: Roads in Colonial French Central Africa, 1890–1960,” chapter 2.

50. The Lawra-Tumu District commissioner noted in July 1926 that the district veterinary officer had “travelled 79 days in June Quarter, thus taking some 1000 men for carriers in the height of the farming season,” and recommended on this basis that it was “high time he was offered a car allowance.” July 1926, Informal Diaries Northern Province, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.18 (EAP541/1/4/18).

51. Staniland, The Lions of Dagbon, 196n33.

52. There has been limited research into the development of road transport in northern Ghana, but recent studies by Ntewusu and Soeters suggest that in the 1920s traders began to rely on lorry transport in addition to older methods of transport by canoe, head porters, carts, and bicycles. While lorry transport undoubtedly began to increase the value of roads for those northerners who were involved in long-distance trading, in the 1920s the impact was limited and the vast majority of trade north of Tamale continued to be carried by head-load. See Samuel Ntewusu, “Settling in and Holding On. A Socio-Economic History of Northern Traders and Transporters in Accra's Tudu: 1908–2008” (Ph.D. diss., University of Leiden, 2011), chapter 6; and Sebastiaan Soeters, “Tamale 1907–1957: Between Colonial Trade and Colonial Chieftainship” (Ph.D. diss., University of Leiden, 2012), chapters 2 and 3.

53. Hart points out that “early commercial motor lorries were a poor fit for early twentieth-century road conditions in the Gold Coast. At a time when few roads were metalled [paved] the heavy weight of imported European lorries caused dirt and gravel roads to deteriorate quickly.” Hart, Ghana on the Go, 45. For complaints about the impact of lorries on roads, see excerpts from Lawra-Tumu Diary, December 1926, Informal Diaries Northern Province, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.18 (EAP541/1/4/18) and from Mamprusi District Informal Diary, January 1933, Extracts from Informal Diaries of the Commissioner of the Southern Province, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.69 (EAP541/1/4/67).

54. By 1930, Whittall estimated that “5 or 6 hundred pounds” would be necessary to pay the labor used annually to repair the drifts on the road between Tamale and Navrongo—a laughably large expense for around 100 miles of road. This estimate of the tradeoffs between labor and materials hit at the heart of the financial rationale for road labor. An all-weather road, which would drastically reduce annual labor costs, was, the governor noted, simply out of the question. January 1930, Informal Diary Chief Commissioner Northern Territories, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.33 (EAP 541/1/4/32).

55. In June, Whittall reported that a constable who was supervising carriers delivering clay from the town of Tili (more than forty miles away) had become “annoyed” at one carrier's sickness and had “made them strip and lie down on the stony road and roll along as punishment.” June 1926, Northern Provincial Commissioner Diary, Diaries, PRAAD-Tamale (EAP541.1.4.30 pt 1).

56. October 1926, Informal Diaries Northern Province, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.18 (EAP 541/1/4/18).

57. June 1926 and September–October 1928, excerpts from Wa Monthly Informal Diaries, Diaries, PRAAD-Tamale (EAP541.1.4.30 pt 1).

58. Miers, Slavery in the Twentieth Century, chapter 10. Cooper suggests that this distinction in fact legitimized many forms of forced labor: “Whatever was not declared coerced was therefore not analogous to slavery and would acquire the distinction of having been exonerated in terms of the only moral criteria the League and the ILO were applying to colonial labor.” Cooper, Frederick, “Conditions Analogous to Slavery: Imperialism and Free Labour Ideology in Africa,” in Beyond Slavery: Explorations of Race, Labor, and Citizenship in Postemancipation Societies, ed. Cooper, Frederick, Holt, Thomas C., and Scott, Rebecca J. (Chapel Hill, 2000), 132 .

59. When enacted on July 1, 1935, Labour Ordinances for the Gold Coast Colony (Ordinance 21), Ashanti (Ordinance 32), and the Northern Territories (Ordinance 33), explicitly protected chiefly rights to “labour and personal services” in Ashanti and the Northern Territories. Coast, Gold, The Laws of the Gold Coast Revised Edition Vol. 1 (Accra, 1937).

60. Duncan-Johnstone's discussions of Tugu roads and Kayani's relationships with constituents appear in the diaries for June, July, August, and September of 1920. The quotation is from September 19, 1920. Lawra Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.15 (EAP541/1/4/15).

61. Extracts from Lawra-Tumu Diary, December 1926, Informal Diaries Northern Province, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.18 (EAP541/1/4/18).

62. Lawra District Files for August and September 1927, Informal Diaries, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.30 (EAP 541/1/4/29). The quotation is from a letter from the District Commissioner of Lawra-Tumu to the Commissioner of the Northern Province on August 23, 1927.

63. Ibid.

64. Correspondence September 1927 to February 1928, Tugu Affairs, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.2.14 (EAP 541/1/2/10).

65. Letter from the Acting DC of Lawra-Tumu to the Commissioner of the Northern Province, April 15, 1930, Tugu Affairs, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.2.14 (EAP 541/1/2/10).

66. Letter from the Commissioner of the Northern Province to the Acting DC of Lawra-Tumu, May 8, 1930, and letter from the Acting DC Lawra-Tumu to the Commissioner of the Northern Province, May 26, 1930, Tugu Affairs, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.2.14 (EAP 541/1/2/10). The exception allowing forced labor in the case of “invasion by animal, insect, or pest,” was enshrined in Article 2 of the 1930 ILO Forced Labour Convention. ILO, Convention CO29, “Forced Labour Convention,” June 28, 1930. http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C029.

67. Letter from the Commissioner of Northern Province to the Acting DC of Lawra-Tumu, June 5, 1930, Tugu Affairs, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.2.14 (EAP 541/1/2/10).

68. January 1919, Tumu Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.5 (EAP541/1/4/5).

69. Letter from E.O. Rake, DC of Tumu, to commissioner of the Northwestern Province, February 19, 1919, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278.

70. Letter from H.M. Berkeley, Commissioner of the Northwestern Province, to the Acting Commissioner of the Northeastern Province, April 30, 1919, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278.

71. Letter from S.D. Nash, Commissioner of the Northeastern Province, to the Acting District Commissioner of Navarro-Zuaragu, June 4, 1919, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278. For more on Nash and Cardinall as unusually perceptive administrators, see Allman and Parker, Tongnaab, chapters 1 and 2.

72. In his reply, he pointed out the hypocrisy of restricting these migrants at a time when the government was promoting and enforcing long-distance labor, “I would further ask you, if the natives in question had migrated to Gambaga, Tamale, or Coomassie, would you have asked for their return?” Letter from S.D. Nash, Commissioner of the Northeastern Province, to the Commissioner of the Northwestern Province, June 28, 1919, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278.

73. Letter from H.M. Berkeley, Commissioner of the Northwestern Province, to H.W. Leigh, Acting Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories, Oct 27, 1919, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278.

74. Leigh, presumably concerned with sparking conflict among his few DCs, left the issue unresolved—instructing in vague terms that “a personal investigation by the District Commissioner affected” should determine government action, without specifying how to resolve an issue on which two “affected” DCs disagreed so fundamentally. Letter from H.W. Leigh, Acting Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories, to the Commissioner of the Northwestern Province, November 5, 1919, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278.

75. Continued correspondence in 1920 and 1921 between Nash and Duncan-Johnstone, the DC of Lawra-Tumu, can be found in PRAAD-Accra, ADM56.1.278. When Michael Dasent returned three and a half years after his initial interaction with the Santejan case to find that the terms of debate had escalated, he argued that Cardinall's “fulsome journalese” was merely a cover for biased rulings and administrative inadequacy, pointing out that “under the administration of (Mr. A.W. CARDINALL) little or no Labour for outside has been recruited.” Letter from Michael Dasent, DC of Lawra-Tumu, to the Commissioner of the Northern Province, June 17, 1922, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278.

76. Letter from Louis Castellain, Commissioner of the Northern Province, to the DC of North Mamprusi, Navrongo, Nov 1, 1924, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278.

77. Letter from the DC of North Mamprusi, Zuaragu, to the Commissioner of the Northern Province, July 21, 1925, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278.

78. Letter from Louis Castellain, Acting Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories, to the Commissioner of the Northern Province, August 6, 1925, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278.

79. Letter from the Acting Commissioner of the Northern Province to the Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories, February 5, 1924, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278. Due to historical and agro-ecological factors, population densities are higher in the far North (what are now the Upper East and Upper West regions) than in what is now the Northern Region.

80. The suggested compensation, a relative fortune to a northern farmer, appears to have never materialized.

81. Charles Lynn, the first agricultural officer posted to the far north, came to the Zuarungu District in 1932, where he began directing locust control campaigns and then agricultural surveys and plans for “mixed farming” in the area. His survey work, published as the agricultural bulletin from the Department of Agriculture, Agriculture in North Mamprusi, Bulletin 34 (Gold Coast, 1937), became a key text in future plans for small-scale agriculture in the region. See Grischow, Shaping Tradition, chapter 5, 109–36. For more on Lynn, including the text of many of the letters he sent to his family while in northern Ghana, see Lynn, Charles, Lynn, Marjorie, and Lynn, Silvia, The Long Garden Master in the Gold Coast: The Life and Times of a Colonial Agricultural Officer in the Gold Coast, 1929–1947 (Bedfordshire, 2012).

82. Acting Chief Commissioner Cutfield wrote in August 1928, “a great number of [people from Navrongo district] had moved from Wiasi area to South Mamprusi and from Talansi to South Mamprusi.” Letter from Cutfield, Acting Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories, to the Commissioner of the Northern Province, August 20, 1928, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278.

83. Letter from P.F. Whittall, Commissioner of the Northern Province, to Cutfield, Acting Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories, October 15, 1928, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278.

84. Grischow, Shaping Tradition, chapters 6 and 8.

85. Letter from A.W. Cardinall, Acting Commissioner of the Northern Province, to the Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories, March 14, 1928, Abangabisi Emigration, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.2.23 (EAP 542/1/2/18).

86. The first reference to the Abangabisi disputants is February 1919, Navrongo-Zuarungu Informal Diary, PRAAD-Tamale NRG8.4.3 (EAP541/1/4/3).

87. The figure of seventy-five compounds is from a letter from the DC of South Mamprusi to the Acting Commissioner of Northern Province, March 13, 1929, and the estimate that each compound contained twenty people is from a letter from H.W. Leigh, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories, to the Colonial Secretary, June 28, 1929, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278.

88. Letter from A.W. Cardinall, Acting Commissioner of the Northern Province, to the DC of South Mamprusi, March 20, 1929, and letter from G.F. Mackay, DC South Mamprusi, to the Acting Commissioner of the Northern Province, May 8, 1929, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278. In demonstration of his support of the plan, the Mamprusi King (the Nayiri) began to offer migrants land near his residence in Nalerigu until they could settle on government-chosen sites.

89. In October, the DC of South Mamprusi remarked that “the system in regard to the NA having odd villages all over the country that follow him direct and cannot, if trouble arises or labour is required be sent to the Chief, in whose country they are, seems bad and uneconomical.” October 1928, Excerpt from South Mamprusi Diary, Diaries, PRAAD-Tamale (EAP541.1.4.30 pt 1).

90. Memos between the DC of Zuarungu and the Commissioner of the Northern Province, August 28 and 29, 1929, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278.

91. Letter from the DC of South Mamprusi to the Commissioner of the Northern Province, January 25, 1930, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278.

92. Letter from G.F. Mackay, DC of South Mamprusi, to the Commissioner of the Northern Province, March 21, 1930, PRAAD-Accra ADM56.1.278.

93. Confidential Letter from the Acting Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories to the DC Mamprusi Gambaga, November 10, 1932, Labour—Northern Territories, PRAAD-Tamale NRG3.22.1.

94. Letter from F.W.F. Jackson, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories, to the Acting Commissioner of Northern Province, July 26, 1930, Labour—Northern Territories, PRAAD-Tamale NRG3.22.1.

95. ILO, Convention CO29, “Forced Labour Convention,” June 28, 1930. http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=1000:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C029.

96. Article 10 of the ILO Forced Labour Convention, as quoted in Memo no. 634/30/5/50, “Maintenance of Roads Under the Forced Labour Convention,” from Acting Colonial Secretary G.C. du Boulay, July 20, 1933, Labour—Northern Territories, PRAAD-Tamale NRG3.22.1.

97. Syme later clarified that, when he denied the use of forced labor in Bawku, this was because he excepted from his definition the practice by which in the “dry season the chiefs call out a certain amount of unpaid labour to work for a short period on the roads, and a few necessary repairs” on rest houses. He wrote that this would not qualify as forced labor but also could not be reported: “No record is kept of the numbers so employed or of the time spent on the work.” “Owing to the large available population,” he nevertheless reasoned, “the services performed must fall very lightly on the inhabitants.” Telegrams and memos from J.K. Syme, Assistant DC Bawku, October and November 1932, Labour—Northern Territories, PRAAD-Tamale NRG3.22.1. The quotation is from a letter from Syme to the DC of Gambaga, November 15, 1932.

98. Roads that didn't qualify as either class A or C, and would have to be maintained by regional funds, were to be looked at extremely critically to see if they were “really necessary.” Memo no. 634/30/5/50, “Maintenance of Roads Under the Forced Labour Convention,” from Acting Colonial Secretary G.C. du Boulay, July 20, 1933, Labour—Northern Territories, PRAAD-Tamale NRG3.22.1. In his study of road labor in the Eastern Province of southern Ghana, Akurang-Parry argues that the category of “Class C” roads “was a strategy adopted by the colonial state to compel agricultural communities to build and maintain roads for transporting and marketing export cash crops as well as local staple crops.” Akurang-Parry, “Colonial Forced Labor Policies,” 20.

99. Staniland, The Lions of Dagbon, 83–84. To Jones and other proponents of indirect rule, one of the primary benefits of a native authority system would be to introduce a system of direct taxation administered by chiefs, a measure that Jones argued would relieve financial pressures and fund paid road gangs.

100. Letter from W.J.A. Jones, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories, to the Acting Colonial Secretary, Accra, January 21, 1935, Labour—Northern Territories, PRAAD-Tamale NRG3.22.1. This letter was also forwarded to all northern DCs.

101. Ibid.

102. Letter from W.J.A Jones, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories, to the Colonial Secretary, Accra, June 5, 1935, Labour—Northern Territories, PRAAD-Tamale NRG3.22.1. This letter was also forwarded to all northern DCs. The sum was far beyond any allocation the central government was likely to grant. For comparison, the entire annual public works allocation in the 1946 ten-year development plan, which dedicated more resources to the North than had ever been contemplated, was £12,700. Ladouceur, Paul André, Chiefs and Politicians: The Politics of Regionalism in Northern Ghana, (London, 1979), 70 . Coming at the height of depression-era fiscal stringency, Jones's proposal was likely to garner nothing but laughter from the central government.

103. Letter from the Assistant DC of Navrongo-Zuarungu to the Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories, September 6, 1933, Labour—Northern Territories, PRAAD-Tamale NRG3.22.1.

104. Letter from W.J.A Jones, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories, to the Colonial Secretary, Accra, June 5, 1935, Labour—Northern Territories, PRAAD-Tamale NRG3.22.1.

105. Letter from the Colonial Secretary to the Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories, May 18, 1936, Labour—Northern Territories, PRAAD-Tamale NRG3.22.1.

106. Wiemers, Alice, “‘When the Chief Takes an Interest’: Development and the Reinvention of ‘Communal’ Labor in Northern Ghana, 1935–1960,” The Journal of African History 58 (2017): 239257 .

* I would like to thank Benedetta Rossi for her leadership and guidance in the preparation of this special issue. Brian Wood provided invaluable research assistance by identifying relevant passages from several years of district files. I would also like to thank the journal's two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

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“It is All He Can Do to Cope with the Roads in His Own District”: Labor, Community, and Development in Northern Ghana, 1919–1936*

  • Alice Wiemers (a1)

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