Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Timothy Alborn

Committee Members

Grace Davies

Simon Davis

Helena Rosenblat

Randolph Trumbach

Subject Categories

African History | European History | History


Gold Coast, justce, native tribunals, customary law, British jurisdiction


This dissertation studies the manner in which the British administered justice as a technique of colonial administration in one of its West African dependencies, the Gold Coast, during the first seventy years of formal colonial rule. In this study that covers the period from the creation of the Gold Coast Colony in 1874 to 1944, I argue that the British were caught between their honest desire to deliver prompt and fair justice to their Gold Coast subjects and their perceived need to support indigenous authorities through whom they wished to govern despite their recognition that those authorities were too often focused on fostering their own political and financial interests to the detriment of justice as the British defined it. They desired to preserve traditional courts and law in part to support those through whom they ruled while keeping to a minimum the costs of governing the colony. I also demonstrate, in the context of an old and relatively well developed non-settler colony, the inability of the colonial authorities to adhere to a consistent policy particularly when faced with concerted opposition from their subjects. This was the case more often than not in the Gold Coast despite the common assumption by colonial legal historians that the rule of law was one of the characteristics of British imperialism the colonized found least burdensome,,