Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Harcourt Fuller

Second Advisor

Ian C. Fletcher


Authorized by the Berlin Conference of 1884-85, the decades-long Scramble for Africa saw Europeans carve out colonial empires across the continent. In recent years, historians have shifted their focus from European conquest to African resistance. However, African military resistance as a dimension of this “primary,” or initial, resistance has received insufficient attention. My thesis explores West Africans’ use of European firearms technology and argues that this capability played a significant role in the conventional, not just unconventional, defense of territorial sovereignty against British and French expeditions and occupations.. For example, Ashanti forces slowed British expansion in what ultimately became the British Gold Coast colony and protectorate. Likewise, Samori Toure’s forces stubbornly battled the French in what became French West Africa. These defensive operations owed a great deal to precolonial West African adaptations of firearms technology acquired from trade with Europeans.

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