Voices from the volumes

Today marks 55 years since Ghanaian independencewas declared, so it is an excellent day to highlight a cataloguing project of Gold Coast records (the former British colonial name for Ghana) I am currently working on with the help of some of our volunteers.

One of the most important things we do is try and make our collections as accessible as possible to people – both those who can visit us, and those who can’t. It is particularly important in some of the work I am involved in to recognise that we hold records that may be relevant to people who firstly may never have heard of us, and secondly may not think that our records will hold anything of interest to them.

Last year I began a project to look at a small section of one of our vast Colonial Office series and highlight the type of information held within it. The ‘Gold Coast 1900’ project is just this – it concentrates on one year in the history of Ghana, during one of the wars between the British and the Ashanti, known as ‘The War of the Golden Stool’.

With the help of some brilliant volunteers, we are cataloguing what is within the huge volumes of correspondence between the British Governor of the Gold Coast and London for that year. This cataloguing work will be uploaded to our online Discovery service and allow anyone with internet access to see a more detailed description of what is within the original correspondence volumes. This will make available names, places and events that are currently only known when someone physically opens a volume.

So far the volunteers have turned up a wealth of information detailing the day to day running of the Colonial administration, but as the date of the material moves towards the war, details of the local resistance met by the British troops on their quest to take the Ashanti ‘Golden Stool’ begins in earnest. There are also reports of the failure of negotiations with the Ashanti Kings and the question of the perceived loyalty of certain Kings, reported as “fully armed and refusing to disperse.”

Through work like this, although on a relatively small scale, we get a glimpse of the people of the Gold Coast and their views. We have also found personal interactions with individuals such as the King of Bekwai, who also appears in the photographs available online through Africa through a lens, adding the voice of a character to this rare image!

“I prefer your wine but my chiefs would like some whisky” – The King of Bekwai, as reported in CO 96/356 f.99. 





At the end of the project, the volunteers will be talking about their work at one of our public talks in May, which we will aim to podcast online for all. Keep an eye on our events page over the next few months for further information.


  1. KEN KORANTENG says:

    I will be interested in collaborating with your volunteer researchers. I’m at the moment plodding through WW Claridge’s seminal work “The History of the Gold Coast and Ashanti” and it will be fascinating to have access to the correspondence and records of Ghana’s colonial area.

  2. Jenni Orme says:

    Thanks for your comment Ken, very pleased to hear the work will be of use to you!

    Once the volunteers’ work is uploaded on to Discovery (our catalogue), you will be able to search the year 1900 by keyword.

    There is much more correspondence that hasn’t been catalogued though, that is available in original document form. This can be viewed here at TNA. Relevant volumes can be identified by year through Discovery.

    If you are thinking of delving in to the original correspondence, I recommend having a read of our research guide on Colonial Office records to begin with, which is available on our website.



  3. Christina Mulligan says:

    Wow, what interesting work! I am an American working as a legal intern at a human rights organization in Ghana. I met today with a man who says his ancestral home was bombed and destroyed by the British colonial government in 1854. Any idea where in the National Archives I might find information about this?

  4. Jenni Orme says:

    Hi Christina,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Unfortunately we can’t answer research questions through the blog, but there are a number of other ways you can contact us and one of our advisers will be happy to help. See our website: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/contact/ for your options.


  5. Stephen Nyako says:

    I saw this late,
    I would have liked to volunteer for this project or any future project relating to the Gold Coast and Ghana .

    Would you please keep me posted about any further events , seminars or any thing at all relating to Gold Coast and Ghana.
    Sincere Regards

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