Africanisation and Government Intelligence: the Politics of Security in the Gold Coast, 1948 - 1957

Colloquium | February 13 | 12:30-2 p.m. | 223 Moses Hall

 Chase Arnold, PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley Department of History

 Center for African Studies

In 1948, the Gold Coast witnessed a week of rioting sparked by political protest and violent confrontation with police. After the riots, the British and Gold Coast governments implemented numerous political reforms, transitioning the colony toward self-rule and, eventually, independence. The riots also spurred security reform in the Gold Coast. For many in Accra and London, the riots demonstrated that the colonial government lacked the intelligence resources it needed to protected itself and its subjects, particularly against the dangers of Communism and 'radical nationalism’. Ironically, the same activists and politicians the government needed to effect its political reforms were seen as the greatest threats to its security.

This paper examines the competing concerns of political and intelligence reform in the Gold Coast between 1948 and 1957. Using previously classified security documents, it details the full extent of the Gold Coast's intelligence network - from the oversight of the Director-General of the Security Service in London down to the Governor, the Commissioner of Police, and their officers. Each of these figures played an integral role in the colony’s security while bearing different perspectives on African nationalism and the future of colonial rule. This paper argues that that these incongruous political views not only complicated intelligence work in the colony but also threatened efforts to create a democratic state.

Chase Arnold is a PhD candidate in History at the University of California, Berkeley. His dissertation examines intelligence work in the Gold Coast and independent Ghana, comparing how both colonial and independent governments in Africa manage state security. His research in this area began at the University of Cambridge, first as a member of the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar and later as a recipient of the International Security and Intelligence Seminar Fellowship. He currently teaches as an adjunct faculty member at the University of San Francisco.