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Closing the Books: Governor Edward Carstensen on Danish Guinea (1842-50)

Sitting on the terrace of the royal plantation Frederiksgave, his favourite retreat, Governor Edward Carstensen came to see the inevitable: Denmark had to give up her “possessions” in Africa. As fate would have it, he came to be the instrument by which two centuries of Danish involvement on the Gold Coast was terminated, thereby making way for the emergence of the colonial system that developed there.

After the abolition of the slave trade, Denmark had struggled to find ways and means to legitimate her continued stay at the Coast. At an early stage the Danes initiated a number of attempts to establish experimental plantations to cultivate export crops such as cotton, coffee and sugar. But a transition from slave trade to “legitimate” products required stability and peace, and a need for control, which the rather limited Danish presence was not able to maintain.

Closing the Books comprises a compilation of the official reports that the last Danish Governor sent home during his term of office at the Gold Coast. The reports reflect his personal views regarding the economic and political situations there, as well as his ideas on the “civilization of Africa”.

“Carstensen was a reliable observer and an articulate rapporteur of local affairs …the English translation of his papers therefore opens up a gold mine of information to the international and Ghanaian community of scholars, and to all among the general public who are interested in Ghanaian history.” — Professor Per Hernæs

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