New Wine in Old Wineskins

The Conservative Tradition in Ghana’s Historical Surveys

David Peterson Del Mar


This review article examines historical surveys of Ghana’s past published since the country’s independence in 1957. The young nation’s historians, particularly A. A. Boahen, wrote accounts that foregrounded African rather than European actors and criticized the impact of European colonialism, though they retained the focus on political elites of earlier works. Historical surveys written since the late 1990s have been more conservative or cautious in several respects. Their authors have been reluctant to privilege one pre-colonial state or ethnic group, and to criticize either colonialism or Ghana’s post-independence leaders. Rather they present conventional political narratives without incorporating recent scholarship on social and cultural history. These textbooks’ conservatism is due both to the demands of the modern nation state and to more durable Ghanaian traditions.

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