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Britain at War with the Asante Nation 1823-1900 (Hardback)

'The White Man's Grave'

Colonial Warfare P&S History Military 19th Century

By Dr Stephen Manning
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 184
Illustrations: 30 black and white
ISBN: 9781526786029
Published: 12th April 2021

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Britain fought three major wars, and two minor ones, with the Asante people of West Africa in the nineteenth century. Only the Sudanese and Zulu campaigns saw a greater loss of life, both for the British and the indigenous population. Like the Zulus, the Asante were a warrior nation who offered a tough adversary for the British regulars – they were respected for their martial skills and bravery. And yet these wars have rarely been written about and are little understood. That is why Stephen Manning’s vivid, detailed new history of this neglected colonial conflict is of such value.

In the war of 1823-6 the British were defeated – the British governor’s head was severed and his skull was taken to the Asante king who made a cast of gold and this trophy was paraded once a year during an Asante ceremony. The years 1873-4 witnessed the brilliance of Sir Garnet Wolseley in overcoming the logistical problems of sending a large British expedition deep into the jungle where it faced not only a formidable foe but a climate so unforgiving that the region became known as ‘The White Man’s Grave’. Finally, the 1900 campaign culminated in the epic siege of the British fort in Kumasi which must rank as one of the great Victorian escapades alongside the more famous sieges of Peking and Mafikeng.

Stephen Manning’s account, which is based on Asante as well as British sources, offers a fascinating view from both sides of one of the most remarkable and protracted struggles of the colonial era.

The view of how the British Empire was created, is very much blurred. This offering from Stephen Manning brings some balance to the view on how the British Empire was formed. After all, an Empire is not formed by being nice. A read through this offering shows that despite the British militaries propensity to win battles and wars, was sometimes blunted by military forces that were considered inferior to them, such as the Asante Nation that was still very capable of bloodying their noses. A very informative read.

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Armorama

Manning’s detailed account of the fighting for control over the Asante is Victorian military history at its best. His narrative portrays vividly the complexity of warfare in this environmentally treacherous region of West Africa, and Manning captures the spirit of the Victorian officers and soldiers perfectly. He also pointedly brings the native allies of the British into his account. Manning also tells the story from the Asante perspective, creating a more balanced account than older texts on the conflict. Anyone interested in Victorian warfare and how the Empire was formed in far-flung corners of the earth will thoroughly enjoy this book.

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Beating Tsundoku

About Dr Stephen Manning

Dr Stephen Manning is an Honorary Research Fellow in the History Department at the University of Exeter and has made a special study of Victorian military history. In addition to publishing many articles in academic journals he has written several books including Evelyn Wood VC: Pillar of Empire, Soldiers of the Queen, Quebec: The Story of Three Sieges, The Martini-Henry Rifle and Bayonet to Barrage: Weaponry on the Victorian Battlefield.

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