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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Canoemen of the Gold Coast (Ghana). A Survey and an Explanation in Precolonial African Labour History
Author:Gutkind, Peter C.W.
Periodical:Cahiers d'études africaines
Geographic term:Ghana
Subjects:transport workers
labour history
labour conflicts
maritime transport
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Labor and Employment
External link:https://doi.org/10.3406/cea.1989.1630
Abstract:In order to test the possibility of studying early precolonial African labour history, the author examines the canoemen of the Gold Coast (Ghana), whose activities began in the last quarter of the 15th century and continued to the middle of the 20th. In particular, he traces the evolution of political and class consciousness among this group of workers, challenging the commonly established proposition that an authentic labour class had its proper beginning only when western-style capitalism had been established in West Africa. The history of the canoemen as an indispensable labour force began with the construction of Elmina Castle by the Portuguese in 1482. The activities of the canoemen included the transport of slaves, passengers and cargo. Because the canoemen possessed unusual skills, they had the power to bring much of the economy to a halt. Labour protest by the canoemen began early, although information before 1500 is sparse. The author argues that they had a consciousness of class, a consciousness of how their labour provided the Europeans with services which only gave them a small part of the wealth they created for others. Their protest consisted of strikes, demands for better remuneration and better working conditions, desertion, damage to canoes, banditry and theft. In conclusion, the internal organization of the canoemen is examined. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in French (p. 473).