Neue Publikationen

/ Forschung

Publication: "The Reports of Theophilus Opoku: A 19th-Century Gold Coast Pastor"

Cover of the Book The Reports of Theophilus Opoku

Over 50 years Michelle Gilbert and Paul Jenkins have engaged with the reports of Revd Theophilus Opoku - a prolific writer and careful observer in the kingdom of Akuapem. This volume published in the Fontes Historiae Africanae series of the British Library brings their immense knowledge to fruition and invites readers to engage with the rich material.

The Reports of Theophilus Opoku details the letters of a pastor living in the ethnically diverse and structurally fragile kingdom of Akuapem in the south-eastern Gold Coast during the 19th century. Between 1868 and 1908, Opoku wrote 37 reports to his employers — the board of the Basel Mission — which provide rare insight into the process of conversion, life in the newly formed Christian communities, and the uneasy relationship between mission regulations, local culture, king, and colonial government. The reports, written in a vivid narrative style, also include detailed descriptions of customary rites, conflict and cooperation between Christians and non-Christians, and factional disturbances in chieftaincy affairs. Opoku was a pioneer missionary in a rapidly changing society: his letters, which are richly introduced and annotated in this volume, are a testimony to the sincerity of his evangelistic zeal.

Gilbert, Michelle, Paul Jenkins, Michelle Gilbert, and Paul Jenkins, eds. 2024. The Reports of Theophilus Opoku: A 19th-Century Gold Coast Pastor. Fontes Historiae Africanae. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Michelle Gilbert received an MA in art history from Northwestern University, an MA in anthropology from NYU, and a PhD in anthropology from SOAS. She did fieldwork in the Ghanaian kingdom of Akuapem continually from 1976 to 2015 and has widely published about the annual Odwira rite, Akuapem history, divine kingship, ethnic conflict, and the relationship between traditional religion and Christianity. She has also written about Ghanaian royal regalia, textiles, and popular art. She was Associate Professor at Sarah Lawrence College, New York, and Trinity College, Hartford.

Paul Jenkins has an MA in Modern History and received his doctorate from the Faculty of Theology at the University of Basel. He was a lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Ghana between 1965 and 1972 and archivist of the Basel Mission from 1972 to 2003. Jenkins also served as lecturer in African History in the University of Basel from 1989 to 2003. He has published widely on mission and indigenous church history, and on photography as a source in historical investigation, and has translated extensively from the Basel Mission archive for scholars interested in Ghana and North Karnataka/South India.