Colonial ambition, common sense thinking, and the making of Takoradi Harbor, Gold Coast

Throughout the 1920s, British officials in London and Accra dedicated considerable time and bureaucratic energy to the planning and construction of Takoradi harbor, an ambitious project that, they expected, would revolutionize the economic prospects of the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana). But by 1930, their efforts had created a structure beset with constructional defects, considerable flaws, and financial shortcomings. This article seeks to explain the sizeable gap separating Takoradi-envisioned from Takoradi-realized by examining the massive paper record compiled during the harbour’s planning and construction. Demonstrating that the structure was born largely from illusion, affect, and a particular version of ‘common sense’ thinking, it encourages historians to not only give further attention to the detailed, and often overwhelming, corpus of blueprints, reports, and correspondence that such projects engendered, but to use them to reflect upon the ways in which colonial statecraft actually sought to limit, rather than expand, the knowledge it had at its disposal. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum in English and French. [Journal abstract]

Title: Colonial ambition, common sense thinking, and the making of Takoradi Harbor, Gold Coast
Author: Plageman, Nate
Year: 2013
Periodical: History in Africa (ISSN 1558-2744)
Volume: 40
Pages: 317-352
Language: English
Geographic term: Ghana
External link: https://doi.org/10.1017/hia.2013.8
Abstract: Throughout the 1920s, British officials in London and Accra dedicated considerable time and bureaucratic energy to the planning and construction of Takoradi harbor, an ambitious project that, they expected, would revolutionize the economic prospects of the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana). But by 1930, their efforts had created a structure beset with constructional defects, considerable flaws, and financial shortcomings. This article seeks to explain the sizeable gap separating Takoradi-envisioned from Takoradi-realized by examining the massive paper record compiled during the harbour’s planning and construction. Demonstrating that the structure was born largely from illusion, affect, and a particular version of ‘common sense’ thinking, it encourages historians to not only give further attention to the detailed, and often overwhelming, corpus of blueprints, reports, and correspondence that such projects engendered, but to use them to reflect upon the ways in which colonial statecraft actually sought to limit, rather than expand, the knowledge it had at its disposal. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum in English and French. [Journal abstract]