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Allott, A. N. (1954) The Akan Law of Property. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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"The Akan Law of Property" endeavours to describe the present position of land-tenure in a homeonomic group of Gold Coast peoples. It attempts neither to expound the ancient customary law, nor to give a definitive restatement of the modern law - and that for a very good reason. The law of the Gold Coast today is a law in transition, from an entirely unwritten body of rules fortified by long-established usage, but subject as customary law so often is in its unwritten stages to local exceptions and shifting emphases, and designed for the simple needs of a people without commerce or permanent agriculture, to a twentieth-century legal system suitable for the requirements of a modern economy based on cash-crops and trade. The crystallization of valuable rights in land, claimed concurrently by a hierarchy of holders from the paramount stool to the individual cultivator, is illustrative of this change in purpose. The complex and fluid nature of land-rights in the Southern Gold Coast at the present time, due to this transition and the partial reception of English law, has for long led responsible persons to call for a statement of the modern law, and at the same time has deterred anyone from making the attempt. The existing authorities are brief or out-of-date. No-one would minimise the valuable contributions of Sarbah, Danquah and Rattray to our knowledge of Akan law; but there has been up till now no book solely or even largely devoted to the Akan law of property, nor one which has set out to synthesize the developing customary law with the many decisions of the superior courts on that law. Nor has much attention been paid to the decisions of native courts, which often reflect changing attitudes in advance of official recognition. "The Akan Law of Property" is divided into three Parts: Part I deals with the Persons of Akan Law - the Stool, the Family, and the Individual. Part II covers the Institutions of Akan Law - sale, pledge, tenancy, gift, caretakership, succession. Part III deals with Miscellaneous Topics; the use of writing, the function of long possession, and the application of registration to Akan tenure. Part I; the land-rights of stools are set out, the vague term "stool land" is analysed into its component parts, the modern separation (formerly inconceivable) between the chief and his stool is shown. The complicated and varied problems (both of fact and law in each particular case) whether a stool has rights of ownership, or only of jurisdiction, or both, are considered in a separate chapter. In the sphere of the family, the term "family property" is also divided, so as to show the exact interrelation between a family and its members, and especially the weakening control now exercised by a family over its members. The rights of citizens and "strangers" (the latter of increasing importance today) are also examined. Part II: dealings with rights in land are considered in the complexity induced by concurrent separation of interests, and the diversity of possible subject-matter. The more interesting features here include (1) the virtual disappearance of the ancient pledge; (2) the growth of new forms of tenancy; (3) the institution of "caretakership"; (4) developments in the customary law of testate and intestate succession, particularly through the demand that widows and children of males should be provided for. Part III; the efforts of the superior courts to fill the gap caused by the absence of rules of prescription or limitation in Akan law are examined; whilst the chapter on WRITING reveals the consequences of the not always happy marriage between English and African law. In Chapter XIII present legislation and experiments relevant to registration of title, and a tentative scheme for recording titles, are set out, with an eye to the future development of Gold Coast land-law, in which it is expected that registration will play a large part. Apart from the mass of new material presented here, the method used in collecting this material is largely novel. The Akan law being mainly unwritten, reliance had to be placed on the personal receipt of oral information on the spot: the method thus differs widely from that customary in legal research (except for the investigations into customary law in the Punjab and Indonesia). In Africa up to now most of the collection of information on customary laws has been made by anthropologists, and not by lawyers. "The Akan Law of Property" thus represents a new venture in the techniques of legal research.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:25

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