“It must be remembered that in Ashanti really valuable anthropological information is possessed by comparatively few of its inhabitants. Those who have accurate knowledge are the older men and women who have few dealings with the foreigner, live secluded lives in remote villages, and are ignorant of or indifferent to the social and religious changes brought about by the European.
“When Prempeh returned, to what had once been known as ‘the city of blood’, he was a cultured, elderly gentleman, who took his place at the head of the Kumasi town council, and his old capital had become almost a city, with many fine and imposing buildings. I met Prempeh twice; once when he and sixty thousand Ashantis assembled to welcome my little Moth aeroplane, as it swooped down on Kumasi, which, from a great height, looked like a small brown patch in a sea of green. I met him again on my way home, after my last ‘tour’.”
“Listen! Rattray knew no secrets, nothing…You will never know secrets…”
To the historian, no less than to any other student of Asantesεm (Asante matters), the collected works of Rattray (1881–1938) are unavoidable, an ineluctable presence. There they sit on the library shelf--a monument of colonial ethnography and manifestly a major source--to be chewed over and ransacked, to be digested and distilled, to be scissored and parcelled out in the footnotes that support or refute an argument, and ultimately--and always--to be returned to again and again. All historians of Asante use Rattray and are grateful to him. It is important at the outset to record that fact of simple gratitude, for, to the historian of Asante, there is much to criticise in Rattray's work. What follows, then, is a critical assessment of that work.