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Reviewed by:
  • Historical Dictionary of Ghana by David Owusu-Ansah
  • Kwaku Nti
Owusu-Ansah, David. Historical Dictionary of Ghana. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

The fourth edition of the Historical Dictionary of Ghana captures virtually all of Ghana’s essential historical events, processes, and developments. By all standards, this work is a welcome and useful resource in the teaching, learning, and research enterprise of Ghana’s checkered past. In less than 500 pages, David Owusu-Ansah crafts a well-woven historical narrative that at once brings together the country’s prehistoric and historic experiences (the latter segment comprising indigenous societies and kingdoms, as well as contact with their African counterparts and Europeans). In each segment the author strikes a balance in the presentation of detail.

Owusu-Ansah adopts a meaningful engagement of chronology, themes, and concepts that proffers a comprehensive and holistic reference history of Ghana with an impressive, larger picture perspective on that of Africa. The extensive introduction provides an insightful synopsis and analysis of Ghana’s rich and long history, geography, and demography, as well as political, socio-cultural, and economic developments. He appropriately concludes that although the country has come a long way, it still has a rather longer lap to go in order to make development and democracy meaningful in the everyday life experiences of the underprivileged majority.

The dictionary itself, presented alphabetically as a requisite format of the genre, includes more than the usual mechanical entries. Owusu-Ansah’s work exhibits creativity and innovation. With an eye to a comprehensive narrative or presentation, the dictionary in many instances connects [End Page 263] the loose ends of the entries with each other using, in most cases, full summaries with extensive internal cross references. Again in pursuit of this quest, individual entries, words, terms, and concepts that have full independent entries are written in boldface the first time they occur in context. Furthermore, related words, terms, and concepts that are the same as or related to major independent entries are also addressed using “See” and “See Also.”

The tall list of Acronyms and Abbreviations, Maps, and Appendixes (A & B) present themselves as ready reckoners of basic facts that cut across the making of the nation and the nationhood of Ghana from colonial to contemporary times. The Bibliography, with its own introduction, seeks to reify and facilitate Ghana’s manifold past as a grand subject of scholarly interest, research, writing, and publication. Owusu-Ansah offers useful primary sources, both archaeological and archival, as well as scholarly secondary sources that are conveniently organized under subheadings to facilitate quick references. Just a modest caveat is warranted; the generous list in this edition is merely introductory to the vast terrain of scholarly work on Ghana.

Regrettably, the dictionary entries do not include specific references to some words, terms, and concepts very important to Fante history, such as “Borbor,” “Abora,” “Fetu,” “Etsii,” and “Nananom Mpow.” And the history of the Efuttu of Winneba is never complete without reference to “Nana Ayirebi Acquah;” so is the case of “Nana Sir Tsibu Darku” in the history of the Assin Atandansu people and their Apemenim neighbors; and, of course, Oyeman Wireko Ampem or E.N. Omaboe of Akuapem. A thorough reference to the Gold Coast newspapers in their entirety would have been germane. And for the Independence era, terms such as “Old Polo Grounds” and “Independence or Black Star Square” would have been valuable. An entry on “Kenneth Dadzie” would have made the Ghanaian presence on the global scene more complete. Also, the discussion of the immediate contemporary past overlooked the “Operation Feed Yourself” program of the Acheampong era, as well as entertaining and popular television shows such as “Avenue A,” “Farewell to Dope,” “Obra,” “Key Soap Concert Party,” “Ultimate Paradise;” and Ghana’s internationally recognized “Osibisa” group. Sports, especially boxing and soccer, which would have necessitated a reference to the national team [the “Black Stars”], were also overlooked. Since Owusu-Ansah referred to “Galamsey,” discussion of “Kalabule” and “Dumsor” would have been equally appropriate given their impact on the Ghanaian populace. [End Page 264] References to Eric Asare Bediako and Atukwei Okai would complete Ghana’s modest list of literary luminaries. A passing reference...


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