The culture of crops on the Gold Coast (West Africa) from the earliest times to circa 1850

La Fleur, J. D. (James Daniel), Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Miller, Joseph, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, University of Virginia
Mason, John, Department of History, University of Virginia
Osheim, Duane, Department of History, University of Virginia
Laviolette, Adria, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia

The present study explores the agricultural past of West Africa in the Atlantic era, describing the African experience of the so-called "Columbian exchange" of people, plants, animals, diseases, and ideas. It is a social and cultural history of the farmers of the Gold Coast (now, Ghana) that focuses on their decisions to experiment with new crops, and to subsequently adapt these to their preferences, to adopt them (or not) as their own staples, and to invent new culinary forms in which to eat them. Special attention is given to agricultural and culinary innovation with foreign starchy crops, notably: maize, plantains, Asian rice, and cassava.

The present study describes changing Gold Coast foodways not only as the product of internal innovation, but as participating in cultural cross-currents of the Atlantic world. Multiple, distinctive, and identifiable communities of Europeans as well as Africans – slaves from Kongo (Central Africa) and the Slave Coast (West Africa), and freedmen from Jamaica and Brazil – flavored Gold Coast agriculture and cuisine in the Atlantic era. And slaves forced to migrate from the Gold Coast to the New World contributed their own agricultural talents, recipes, and notions about food to nascent American cultures.

The present study uses multiple foundations of evidence and methodologies, including: contemporary European-language documentation of Western Africa (travelogues, company records, unpublished manuscripts), oral history, archaeology, comparative-historical linguistics, proverbs, plant taxonomy, and nutritional science. Findings are presented in a humanistic and historical manner; that is, they are written in
Terms of farmers creating change through their historically specific decisions to cultivate and consume new food, and contra a static “traditional agriculture” rooted in immutable ethnic (or “tribal”) social structures.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: