William & Mary

Forts, Castles, and Cannon: The European outposts in West Africa

Forts, Castles, and Cannon: The European outposts in West Africa 

A lecture by :
Christopher R. DeCorse (Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University)

Wednesday, October 15th
James Blair 206

Goree, Bunce Island, Elmina, Ouidah: these names are iconic of a trade that brought millions of enslaved Africans to the Americas.  The Atlantic trade, including the slave trade, linked Africa and the Americas for more than four centuries, engendering dramatic changes for societies on both sides of the ocean.  Archaeology, which reflects the lives of ordinary people, has revealed how Africans both transformed and maintained their cultures across the Atlantic world.  Following an overview of West Africa and the history of Europe’s outposts in West Africa, Professor DeCorse  will explore how the Atlantic trade effected and transformed West African societies.  Drawing on examples from across West Africa, he will examine how archaeology provides a key source of information, in many instances the only source of information, of these transformations. 


Christopher R. De Corse is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University.  His research interests include African archaeology and history, culture contact, general anthropology and popular culture in archaeology.  His work in West Africa focuses on the Atlantic period, particularly the impacts of the slave trade, and the understanding of these transformations in terms of Africa’s pre-Atlantic past.  He is currently directing ongoing research projects in coastal Ghana and in Sierra Leone, including work at Elmina, the site of the first and largest European trade post established in sub-Saharan Africa and Bunce Island, the major center of European trade on the coast between the Senegambia and coastal Ghana.  His principal publications on African archaeology include: An Archaeology of Elmina: Africans and Europeans on the Gold Coast, 1400-1900 (Smithsonian Press, 2001, now Available from Eliot Werner Publications http://www.eliotwerner.com) and West Africa during the Atlantic Slave Trade (an edited volume published by Continuum Press, 2001). DeCorse’s 2008 book co-edited with John Walton and James Brooks, brings together the work of twelve scholars from diverse disciplines to explore theoretical vantage and method in the interpretation of the past through the lense of microhistory.  DeCorse’s textbooks include the four-field book Anthropology: A Global Perspective (8th Edition, 2015, coauthored with Raymond Scupin); In the Beginning: An Introduction to Archaeology, 12th Edition (Prentice Hall, 2005, with Brian Fagan); The Record of the Past: An Introduction to Archaeology and Physical Anthropology (Prentice Hall, 2000); and Anthropology: The Basics (1st Edition do for release in 2015, with Raymond Scupin).  DeCorse has also authored or co-authored more than 40 book chapters, journals articles, and reviews.