- Historical Dictionary of Ghanaby David Owusu-Ansah
In the fourth edition of the Historical Dictionary of Ghana, David Owusu-Ansah, professor of history at James Madison University, provides a compendium of information about the West African nation of Ghana that will stand the test of time and historicity. This, to me, as a publication of consequence and unlimited importance, confirms the publishers’ promise to the general reader as well as experts, including researchers and students, that its historical dictionaries “present essential information on a broad range of subjects, including American and world history, art, business, cities, and countries, cultures, customs, film, global conflicts, international relations, literature, music, philosophy, religion, sports, and theater” (p. ii).
The current volume is divided into sections, which include an editor’s foreword, an author’s preface, acronyms and abbreviations, maps, a copious chronology (which dates from circa 10,000 b.c.to August 2013), the dictionary itself, two appendices (“British Administration of the Gold Coast” and “Ghanaian Leaders since 1951”), a bibliography, and biographical [End Page 150]information about the author. From the onset, in the editor’s foreword, series editor Jon Woronoff underscores: “Some African countries matter more than others. Ghana is one of these. It was among the frst to achieve independence, after having long been a model British colony under the name of the Gold Coast” (p. xi). Regarding the previously published editions of the dictionary, readers are reassured by Woronoff: “The fourth edition, which is thoroughly updated and greatly expanded, was written by David Owusu-Ansah, who co-authored the second edition and wrote the third. This continuity is a definite plus” (p. xi). Also, to vouch for Owusu-Ansah’s credentials in undertaking such a magnificent task, Woronoff concludes: “All the while he has been writing about Ghana, and along with these historical dictionaries, he has compiled several books, articles, and essays. This is—for the moment—the culmination of that work and an excellent point of entry to a place that is almost fated to remain crucial for the continent [of Africa]” (p. xii).
Owusu-Ansah, for his part, in the author’s preface deems it a great honor to have the opportunity to write the fourth edition: “[my] first experience was when I coauthored the second edition with Dr. Daniel McFarland and subsequently the third on my own” (p. xiii). Furthermore, he sees the invitation to write the current edition as a representation of trust and confidence reposed in him by the publishers and the editors, for which he expresses gratitude.
Owusu-Ansah makes sure that the users of the Historical Dictionary of Ghanahave assistance in understanding acronyms and abbreviated words. Pages xv to xxx are used for that purpose, and there are four pages of maps (pp. xxxi–xxxiv). The maps show Ghana’s administrative regions and national boundaries, major ethnic and linguistic areas (two pages), and major road links. Owusu-Ansah painstakingly ensures that the information that has been provided is current, including information in the chronology to the effect that, on 29 August 2013, “The Supreme Court [of Ghana] upheld John Dramani Mahama as the duly elected president of Ghana” (p. lxxxi).
The historical importance of this publication has been established by Owusu-Ansah; however, he makes sure that researchers and others who utilize it know about the resources that are at stake in Ghana, as he points out in the introduction: “Ghana, the former British West African colony of the Gold Coast, is known for its rich agricultural, mineral, and petroleum resources” (p. 1). He uses the introduction to emphasize such subtopics as “Land and People,” “History,” ”Great Britain, the Gold Coast, and the Colonial State,” “Early Nationalist Movements,” “Independence and Its Aftermath: The Nkrumah Years, 1951–1966,” “The First Military Rule and the Second Republic: 1966–1972,” “Military Regimes of the 1970s,” “The Third Republic and Military Rule in the 1980s,” “The Fourth Republic, 1992–2000: J. J. Rawlings and the NDC Party,” “J. A. Kufuor and the NPP Administration 2000–2008,” and “John Atta Mills, John Dramani Mahama...