June 2015 witnessed the commemoration of some international historic events. These historic events brought to light the influential role of the United Kingdom of Great Britain in world history. The United Kingdom of Great Britain is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and the Northern Ireland. The rule of law is an important tool for growth. Magna Carta, which is Latin for the Great Charter or Magna Carta libertatum, the Great Charter of the Liberties is a stellar document. It is one of the world’s oldest set of rules. The view is generally held that the Magna Carta blazed the trail for the growth of democratic governance in the world. The Magna Carta is a British document! It was prepared in England and was signed by King John of England on June 15, 1215 at Runnymede, near Windsor. June 15, 2015 marked the 800th anniversary of the signing into law of the epoch-making document. Many Bar Associations and institutions for the study of law across the world organized symposia to commemorate the momentous document.
Exploits of Napoleon
Down through the ages, individuals, groups and nations fought wars. One war which has great historic and linguistic significance is the Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon, a daring French soldier was defeated by the armies of the Seventh Coalition which comprised an Anglo-allied army. The force that halted the expedition of Napoleon was under the command of the Duke of Wellington. The Anglo-allied army combined effectively with a Prussian army to defeat Napoleon. The battle took place at Waterloo (in present day Belgium) on June 18, 1815. June 18, 2015 marked the bi-centenary of the defeat of Napoleon. In English, waterloo has come to symbolize defeat, downfall or setback. It is sometimes said ‘he met his waterloo’, meaning ‘he met his defeat’ or ‘every Napoleon has his waterloo’, to wit, ‘every Napoleon or giant has his day of setback’. The people of Britain, playing a crucial role in the 19th century historic triumph have immortalized the event by having landmarks named after it. Waterloo train terminus and Waterloo Bridge are transportation and tourist sites in the British capital of London. Like the Magna Carta, the role of Britain in the defeat of Napoleon could not be discounted.
Ghana and Britain
Since the first English arrival in 1621 in the land that came to be known as the Gold Coast through the Bond of 1844, up to independence in 1957 and eventual attainment of a republic in 1960, Ghana has recognized the influence of Britain on her socio-economic development. Fifty eight years into independence, the West African nation has given recognition to an important role played by a British citizen. On June 19, 2015, President John Dramani Mahama opened a multi purpose park in Kumasi. The park which is one of its kind in Ghana and perhaps in West Africa is named after Captain Robert Sutherland Rattray, a Scottish. Captain Rattray was a civil servant cum anthropologist who worked in the early 20th century Gold Coast. He worked at Ejura and was also a clerk of the colonial legislative council in Accra. His influence in Asante, Gold Coast and West African history is made manifest in the fact that he was the first person to have flown a glider (aircraft) in West Africa. He was said to have crash-landed in a glider in the site where the park is situated. Captain Rattray documented the history of the Asantes. Many scholars who wrote about the Asante people in particular and the Gold Coast in general relied on the pioneering work of Captain Rattray. Another significance of the Rattray Park is that public servants and others working in Ghana must be assured that their efforts in the socio-economic development of the nation may be recognized today or some years to come as Captain Rattray has been recognized after a century of his role in the Gold Coast.
Head of state
Even after independence, Britain has played an influential role in the affairs of Ghana than perhaps any nation. Flight Lieutenant (retired) Jerry John Rawlings is the longest serving head of state of Ghana. He holds the distinctive record of being the only person to have led four governments of Ghana. He was the Chairman of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) from June 1979 to September 1979. Again, he was the Chairman of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) from January 1982 to January 1993. He was the President of Ghana in the government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) I from January 1993 to January 1997 and again President of Ghana from January 1997 to January 2001 in the government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) II. There was a British element in this feat. Flt. Lt. (rtd) J.J. Rawlings had a British father from Scotland!
It is an undeniable fact that education plays a crucial role in the development of societies. Britain influenced education in the Gold Coast and Ghana. Many Ghanaians financed their studies in Britain or obtained British scholarship. Philip Quarcoe, an indigenous teacher in the Gold Coast studied in Britain in the 18th century. From 1945 till the time he returned to the Gold Coast, Dr Kwame Nkrumah had a stint with the London School of Economics and the University College. He later enrolled in a law programme at the Gray’s Inn. In all three situations, Dr. Nkrumah did not complete his studies. The Prime Minister of the second republic, Professor Kofi Abrefa Busia studied at the University College, Oxford University from 1941 to 1946. The President of the third republic, Dr Hilla Limann studied at the London School of Economics and the University of London from 1957 to 1960. The second President of the fourth republic, Mr John Agyekum Kufuor studied Law at the Lincoln Inn in 1961 before enrolling at the Exeter College, University of Oxford where he completed a bachelor’s degree in 1964. Professor John Evans Atta Mills studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science where he obtained an LLM degree in 1968 and earned a PhD in Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London in 1971.
By: Joseph K.A. Bimpong; the writer is a teacher at Prempeh College, Kumasi