BA Florida State U.; MA Florida State U.; DPhil. Oxford University.
Dr. Cassandra Mark-Thiesen is a Research Associate (Marie-Heim Vögtlin / Swiss National Science Foundation) of the History Department of the University of Basel, where she was previously a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow from 2012-2016.
She has researched the social and economic history of West Africa, especially Ghana and Liberia. Her first book took a global labor history approach to the history of the first mechanized gold mines in the Gold Coast Colony. Currently, she is working on an entangled history of state-sponsored agricultural research and practices in Liberia. She is also co-editing a volume on memory, commemoration and the politics of historical memory in Africa.
Fresh off the press: An innovative study of labor relations, particularly the interactions of recruitment agents and migrant workers, in the mining concessions of Wassa, Gold Coast Colony, 1879 to 1909
Recent years have seen renewed interest in the historical study of labor in Africa. Unlike those of the past, these new studies are rooted in the recognition of Africa's dynamic, expansive, and productive informal sector. While this book focuses on one of West Africa's earliest large-scale industries, namely the Wassa gold mines in the southwest Gold Coast, it is not solely concerned with the traditional working class. Rather, it explores the plurality of labor relations that characterized the mining concessions during the period 1879 to 1909, including the presence of migrants from various parts of West Africa as well as casual and tributary laborers, both male and female.
In capturing the phenomenon of labor mobility as it played out in Wassa, Mediators, Contract Men, and Colonial Capital presents one of the fullest accounts of the labor agents who regularly brought groups of migrant laborers to the mines. The narrative discusses these agents' means of employment and roles in the informalization and indentureship of labor; in addition, it explores the regional dynamics of the recruitment machinery and confronts issues of coercion and choice.
Scholars interested in African history, global labor history, economic history, and women's work in Africa will find much of value in this innovative study.
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Areas of Interest
Liberia and Ghana, and their global entanglements. Capitalist intensification in West Africa from a comparative perspective. Nineteenth and twentieth century. Labor, Development, Rurality, Race, Gender, Science and Empire.
Tending to the Soil: Sovereignty, Education and Agriculture in Liberia of the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries
(formerly: Rural Liberia in the Age of Developmentalism: Policies, Politics, Imaginations and Constraints, c. 1950 to 1980 ↣ funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Marie Heim-Vögtlin grant)).
Memory, Commemoration and the Politics of Historical Memory in Africa: Essays in Honour of Jan-Georg Deutsch ↣ co-editor.
60+60/2020: Graphic Histories of African Independence ↣ co-curator.
Historical Preservation / Digitization:
Restoring and digitizing the video archives of the Liberia Broadcast System (LBS) from the 1980s onward ↣ co-organizer.
Selected recent publications
Mediators, Contract Men, and Colonial Capital: Mechanized Gold Mining in the Gold Coast Colony, 1879-1909 (University of Rochester Press, 2018).
Cassandra Mark-Thiesen, ‘Of Vagrants and Volunteers during Liberia’s Operation Production, 1963-69,’ African Economic History, 46, 2 (2018).
Cassandra Mark-Thiesen, ‘Dreams of a ‘Johannesburg of West Africa’: Southwest Gold Coast Moment in the Imperial Rush for Gold,’ in Stephen Tuffnell and Ben Mountford, Gold Rush: A Global History c.1848-1910 (University of California Press, 2018).
Cassandra Mark-Thiesen, ‘African Women and the “Lazy African” Myth in Nineteenth Century West Africa,’ in Peter-Paul Bänziger and Michael Suter (eds.) Histories of Productivity: Genealogical Perspectives on the Body and Modern Economy (New York: Routledge, 2016).
Cassandra Mark-Thiesen, ‘Goldminen, Akkordarbeit und Weibliche Bergarbeiterinnen –ein neuer Blick durch Global Labour History’, ETÜ – HistorikerInnen-Zeitschrift, 2016.
Cassandra Mark-Thiesen, The Need to Be Indebted: Political Considerations for the Mobilisation of Mining Labour in Southwest Ghana, c. 1879 - 1900, in Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi and Rana P. Behal (eds.) The Vernacularization of Labour Politics (Tulika Books, 2016).
Cassandra Mark-Thiesen, ‘From Mining Pit to Missionary Bungalow: Trading Spaces in the Writing of Patrick Harries,’ in Veit Arlt, Stephanie Bishop, and Pascal Schmid (eds.) Explorations in African History: Reading Patrick Harries (Basel: Basler Afrika Bibliographien, 2015).
Cassandra Mark-Thiesen, Taxing Colonial Africa: The Political Economy of British Imperialism, by Leigh Gardner, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 43 (1), January 2015.
Cassandra Mark-Thiesen, ‘The “Bargain” of Collaboration: African Intermediaries, Indirect Recruitment, and Indigenous Institutions in the Ghanaian Gold Mining Industry, 1900-1906,’ International Review of Social History, 57, December 2012: 17-28.
Cassandra Mark-Thiesen, Michelle Sikes and Moritz Mihatsch, A Commemorative volume to celebrate the scholarship of Jan-Georg Deutsch, addressing themes of memory, commemoration and the politics of historical memory in Africa. I will be acting as one of three editors of this volume.
- Member of the Historical Preservation Society of Liberia
- Member of the African Studies Association Germany
- Member of the European Congress on World and Global History
- Member of American Historical Association
- Member of African Studies Association
- Member of Swiss Society for African Studies
- Member of African Economic History Network