Lucayo F. Casillas

Lucayo F. Casillas

Ph.D. Student in African, Caribbean, and Atlantic History at UC Berkeley
Lucayo Casillas
  • Regions: Africa; Atlantic World; Britain; Caribbean; England; Europe; The United Provinces/Dutch Atlantic World
  • Times: 17th to 18th centuries
  • Themes: Colonialism; Cultural History; History of Empire; Political History; West African Statehood; Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade; Warfare; Marronage

I am a historian with interests in African, Caribbean, English, Dutch and American Indian histories during the Early Modern era and the age of the Atlantic World. Currently, my core areas of interest are the cultural, political, and military histories of the precolonial Gold Coast (Ghana) and its diaspora in Jamaica, Suriname, and the greater Atlantic World that emerged as a result of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade . My work entails interdisciplinary approaches to writing about the past, from archival research to ethnographic fieldwork among traditional chieftaincies in Ghana and Maroon groups in Jamaica and the greater Caribbean/South America, all of whom bear roots that trace back to the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

Through Darmouth College' Senior Fellowship Program, I completed a 696-page undergraduate senior thesis concerning the correlation between state formation and expansion in the Gold Coast of Africa and the Maroon Wars of Jamaica (

As an Africanist and Atlanticist historian, my graduate studies focus on the history of the Gold Coast and that of its connection to the greater Atlantic World during the seventeenth- and early eighteenth centuries. I am working towards crafting and completing a dissertation entitled Blood on the Gold Coast: Warfare, Trade, and Enslavement in Early Modern West Africa. My interests center the following themes in both the Akan milieu of the interior Gold Coast, along with the Euro-African, Akan, Ga, and Gbe societies of the southern coast: state formation and expansion, statehood, and statecraft, along with the political cultures that these processes fostered; lineage, kinship, gendering processes, ethnicity, and racialization; class, commerce, slavery, and modes of production; land tenure, law, and notions of property; religion, priesthood, ritual, and spiritual-discourse; and methods of coercion, warfare, and military culture.

Although my work is in its pre-dissertation stage, the currently imagined narrative for my upcoming dissertation traces developments in Atlantic commerce in the Gold Coast, and how fierce competition between and among African and European factions gave way to profound developments in militarization and warfare. The spread of warfare, in turn, had a monumental influence on the statehood, society, and economies of Indigenous societies as well as on the commercial interests of European monarchies and merchants. Blood on the Gold Coast begins with the emergence of the Dutch as formidable merchants in the region during the early seventeenth-century, and the state of indigenous society during this period. It then follows developments in coastal and Euro-African societies as political and commercial rivalries intensified with the onslaught of multi-national trading interests out of Europe and the Americas. By the latter part of the century, the Gold Coast saw the expansion and decline of multiple African powers, and the gradual subversion of Dutch influence and hegemony as a result of English initiatives to stimulate a robust slave trade. Just as the gold and commodity trades of the region propelled the United Provinces as an Atlantic power, with the Elmina fortress serving as a base of operations for Dutch commerce in the Western Hemisphere, the English dominated slave trade in the Gold Coast was critical to English expansion at the expense of other European nations, and became integral to upholding Britain’s most prosperous slave societies during the eighteenth century.

Meanwhile, the political demographics of the Indigenous Gold Coast underwent enormous change with the ascent of conquest states and merchant coalitions in the midst of a gunpowder revolution. And all the while, African powers pressed their political and commercial interests against those of Europe, which gave rise to an aura of inimical contestation among all factions that vied for power and wealth in this region.

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