Cassandra Thiesen-Mark

Dr. Cassandra Thiesen-Mark

Assistentin (Geschichte Afrikas) (Departement Geschichte) (Departement Geschichte)


Hirschgässlein 21
4051 Basel

Cassandra Thiesen-Mark

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.


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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.

Click here for further information and how to order. >>

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, Knowledge Production, Rurality, Race, Gender, Science and Empire.

On-going Projects


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

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Cassandra Mark-Thiesen, Michelle Sikes and Moritz Mihatsch (eds.), Memory,
Commemoration and the Politics of Historical Memory in Africa: A Commemorative
volume to celebrate the scholarship of Jan-Georg Deutsch. (Contract with De Gruyter
Oldenbourg; expected October 2021).

Michelle M. Sikes, Cassandra Mark-Thiesen & Moritz A. Mihatsch, ‘Public
Memorialisation & the Politics of Historical Memory in Africa,’ (forthcoming) in (eds.)
Cassandra Mark-Thiesen & Moritz A. Mihatsch, Michelle M. Sikes The Politics of Historical
Memory & Commemoration in Africa Essays in Honour of Jan-Georg Deutsch (Berlin: De
Gruyter, 2021).

Rouven Kunstmann & Cassandra Mark-Thiesen, ‘The Memory Process in the
Commemorations of the Dead in West African Newspapers,’ (forthcoming) in (eds.)
Cassandra Mark-Thiesen & Moritz A. Mihatsch, Michelle M. Sikes The Politics of Historical
Memory & Commemoration in Africa Essays in Honour of Jan-Georg Deutsch (Berlin: De
Gruyter, 2021).

Cassandra Mark-Thiesen, ‘Contentions over Agricultural Production in Colonial Africa,’
(forthcoming) in (ed.) Jeannie Whayne, The Oxford Handbook of Agricultural History (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2021).

Cassandra Mark-Thiesen, ‘Knowing Women: Same-Sex Intimacy, Gender, and Identity in
Postcolonial Ghana by Serena Dankwa’, Afrika-Bulletin (Basel), March 2021.

Cassandra Mark-Thiesen, 'Review: AG Hopkins, Economic History of West Africa (2nd Edition)', Revue d'Histoire Contemporaine de l'Afrique, May 2021.

Cassandra Mark-Thiesen, ‘Transferring” Formal Agricultural Education to Liberia in the
1920s’, in (eds.) Julia Tischler, Heinrich Hartmann Planting Seeds of Knowledge in an
Agrarian World: Agriculture and Education in Rural Societies in the Twentieth Century
(New York, Oxford: Berghahn 2022).


Cassandra Mark-Thiesen & Moritz Mihatsch, ‘Liberia an(d) Empire: Sovereignty,
‘Civilisation’ and Commerce in Nineteenth-Century West Africa,’ Journal of Imperial and
Commonwealth History, 47:5, December 2019: 884–911


Mediators, Contract Men, and Colonial Capital: Mechanized Gold Mining in the Gold Coast Colony, 1879-1909 (University of Rochester Press, 2018).                                         

Link to Boydell & Brewer Press.

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.



Professional memberships

  • 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