Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Voting, nationhood, and citizenship in late-colonial Africa

Willis, J.; Lynch, G.; Cheeseman, N.

Voting, nationhood, and citizenship in late-colonial Africa Thumbnail


G. Lynch

N. Cheeseman


In the face of considerable scepticism from some British commentators, elections by secret ballot and adult suffrage emerged as central features of the end of British rule in Africa. This article considers the trajectories of electoral politics in three territories – Ghana (Gold Coast), Kenya, and Uganda. It shows that in each of these, the ballot box came to provide a point of convergence for the disparate ambitions of nationalist politicians, colonial policy-makers, and a hopeful, restive public: performing order, asserting maturity and equality, and staking a claim to prosperity. Late-colonial elections, we argue, constrained political possibility even as they offered citizenship, presenting the developmentalist state as the only possible future and ensuring substantial continuities from late colonialism to independence. They also established a linkage between nationhood, adulthood, and the ballot that was to have enduring political force. Yet at the same time, they established elections as a space for a local politics of clientelism, and for kinds of claims-making and accountability that were to complicate post-independence projects of nation-building.


Willis, J., Lynch, G., & Cheeseman, N. (2018). Voting, nationhood, and citizenship in late-colonial Africa. Historical Journal, 61(4), 1113-1135.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 16, 2018
Online Publication Date Jul 24, 2018
Publication Date Dec 1, 2018
Deposit Date Apr 17, 2018
Publicly Available Date Apr 18, 2018
Journal Historical Journal
Print ISSN 0018-246X
Electronic ISSN 1469-5103
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 61
Issue 4
Pages 1113-1135


Accepted Journal Article (748 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This article has been published in a revised form in The Historical Journal This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © Cambridge University Press 2018.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations