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Manu-Osafo, Manuel J. ‘The Days of their Heedless Power Were Over and Done’: Dynamics of Power in the Military Structures of the Precolonial Asante State, 1874–1900
2021, Manu-Osafo, M. J. (2021) “‘the Days of Their Heedless Power Were Over and Done’: Dynamics of Power in the Military Structures of the Precolonial Asante State, 1874–1900,” The Journal of African History, 62(2), pp. 254–270. doi: 10.1017/S0021853721000281.

The British surprisingly faced no military resistance when they captured Asante in 1896. Previous works have focused on the agency of actors like Prempe and Frederick Hodgson to explain why. This paper, in contrast, approaches this epoch in Asante history from the context of the sociopolitical power structure within which the precolonial Asante state operated. It asserts that Asante's independence was contingent on having a strong military. But since it had no standing army, the state used Asante's ‘social contract’ to coerce its subjects into ad hoc armies to meet military threats. Starting from the 1874 Sagrenti War, however, the state disregarded the social contract. This unleashed a series of events that undermined the state's power to coerce Asantes into military service. The article posits further that this erosion of the state's coercive power ultimately prevented it from countering the British with armed resistance in 1896 to maintain independence.

Comment: This paper offers another interpretation of how colonial rule was imposed in the Asante Empire. Despite its military strength, the Empire submitted to the British in 1896. Using a version of Social Contract Theory, the author accounts for how the Asante state was, over time, undermined, which weakened its military. It is an easy paper to read, however the terms are very specific and niche to pre-colonial West Africa and requires a previous knowledge of the Asante Empire and its associated figures, such as Asantehene Prempe.

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