History of Ghana (African country)


Pre Colonial Ghana

The Republic of Ghana is named after the medieval West African Ghana Empire. The

history of ghana africa

Empire became known in Europe and Arabia as the Ghana Empire by the title of its emperor, the Ghana. The Empire appears to have broken up following the 1076 conquest by the Almoravid General Abu-Bakr Ibn-Umar.

A reduced kingdom continued to exist after Almoravid rule ended, and the Kingdom was later incorporated into subsequent Sahelian empires, such as the Mali Empire several centuries later. Geographically, the ancient Ghana Empire was approximately 500 miles (800 km) north and west of the modern state of Ghana, and controlled territories in the area of the Sénégal River and east towards the Niger rivers, in modern Senegal, Mauritania and Mali.

Historically, modern Ghanaian territory was the core of the Empire of Ashanti, which was one of the most advanced states in sub-Sahara Africa in the 18th–19th centuries, before colonial rule. It is said that at its peak, the King of Ashanti could field 500,000 troops.

For most of central sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural expansion marked the period before 500. Farming began earliest on the southern tips of the Sahara, eventually giving rise to village settlements.
Toward the end of the classical era, larger regional kingdoms had formed in West Africa, one of which was the Kingdom of Ghana, north of what is today the nation of Ghana. Before its fall, at the beginning of the 10th century, Akan migrants moved southward then founded several nation-states including the first great Akan empire of the Bono founded in the 11th Century and for which the Brong-Ahafo Region of Akanland is named after.

Later, Akan groups such as the Ashanti federation and Fante states are thought to possibly have roots in the original Bono settlement at Bono manso. Much of the area was united under the Empire of Ashanti by the 16th century. The Ashanti government operated first as a loose network and eventually as a centralised kingdom with an advanced, highly specialised bureaucracy centered in Kumasi.

By the end of the 16th century, most of the ethnic groups constituting the modern Ghanaian population had settled in their present locations. Archaeological remains found in the coastal zone indicate that, the area has been inhabited since the Bronze Age (ca. 2000 BC), but these societies, based on fishing in the extensive lagoons and rivers, have left few traces.

Archaeological work also suggests that central Ghana, north of the forest zone was inhabited as early as 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. Oral history and other sources suggest that the ancestors of Ghana’s residents, the Akan entered the area at least as early as the 10th century AD, and that migration from the north by the Dagomba continued thereafter.

These migrations resulted in part from the formation and disintegration of a series of large states in the western Sudan (the region north of modern Ghana drained by the Niger River). Strictly speaking, Ghana was the title of the king, but the Arabs, who left records of the kingdom, applied the term to the king, the capital, and the state.
The 9th-century Berber historian/geographer Al Yaqubi described ancient Ghana as one of the three most organised states in the region (the others being Gao and Kanem in the central Sudan). Its rulers were renowned for their wealth in gold, the opulence of their courts, and their warrior/hunting skills.
They were also masters of the trade in gold, which drew North African merchants to the western Sudan. The military achievements of these and later western Sudanic rulers, and their control over the region’s gold mines, constituted the nexus of their historical relations with merchants and rulers in North Africa and the Mediterranean.

Although none of the states of the western Sudan controlled territories in the area that is modern Ghana, several small kingdoms that later developed such as Bonoman, were ruled by nobles believed to have immigrated from that region.
The trans-Saharan trade that contributed to the expansion of kingdoms in the western Sudan also led to the development of contacts with regions in northern modern Ghana, and in the forest to the south.

The growth of trade stimulated the development of early Akan states located on the trade route to the goldfields, in the forest zone of the south. The forest itself was thinly populated, but Akan-speaking peoples began to move into it toward the end of the 15th century, with the arrival of crops from Southeast Asia and the New World that could be adapted to forest conditions. These new crops included sorghum, bananas, and cassava. By the beginning of the 16th century, European sources noted the existence of the gold-rich states of Akan and Twifu in the Ofin River Valley.

Image Of An Ashanti Home Before British Colonisation

It seems clear from oral traditions, as well as from archaeological evidence, that after the establishment of the Akan kingdom states in the 11th century, the Dagomba states, was the earliest kingdom to emerge in modern Ghana, being well established by the close of the 16th century. Although the rulers of the Dagomba states were not usually Muslim, they brought with them, or welcomed, Muslims as scribes and medicine men.

As a result of their presence, Islam influenced the north.
Muslim influence, spread by the activities of merchants and clerics.
In the broad belt of rugged country between the northern boundaries of the Muslim-influenced state of Dagomba, and the southernmost outposts of the Mossi kingdoms (of what is today the southern Burkina Faso and northern Ghana border), were peoples who were not incorporated into the Dagomba entity.

Among these peoples were the Kassena agriculturalists.
They lived in a so-called segmented society, bound together by kinship tie, and ruled by the head of their clan. Trade between Akan kingdoms and the Mossi kingdoms to the north (of what is today the northern Ghana and southern Burkina Faso border) flowed through their homeland, subjecting them to Islamic influence, and to the depredations of these more powerful neighbors.

Rise of the Ashanti

Under Chief Oti Akenten (r. ca. 1630–60), a series of successful military operations against neighboring Akan states brought a larger surrounding territory into alliance with Ashanti. At the end of the 17th century, Osei Tutu (died 1712 or 1717) became Asantehene (king of Ashanti).
Under Osei Tutu’s rule, the confederacy of Ashanti states was transformed into an empire with its capital at Kumasi. Political and military consolidation ensued, resulting in firmly established centralised authority.
Osei Tutu was strongly influenced by the high priest, Anokye, who, tradition asserts, caused a stool of gold to descend from the sky to seal the union of Ashanti states. Stools already functioned as traditional symbols of chieftainship, but the Golden Stool represented the united spirit of all the allied states and established a dual allegiance that superimposed the confederacy over the individual component states. The Golden Stool remains a respected national symbol of the traditional past and figures extensively in Asante ritual.

Osei Tutu permitted newly conquered territories that joined the confederation to retain their own customs and chiefs, who were given seats on the Ashanti state council. Tutu’s gesture made the process relatively easy and nondisruptive, because most of the earlier conquests had subjugated other Akan peoples.
Within the Ashanti portions of the confederacy, each minor state continued to exercise internal self-rule, and its chief jealously guarded the state’s prerogatives against encroachment by the central authority. A strong unity developed, however, as the various communities subordinated their individual interests to central authority in matters of national concern.

By the mid-18th century, Ashanti was a highly organised state. The wars of expansion that brought the northern states of Dagomba, Mamprusi, and Gonja under Ashanti influence were won during the reign of Opoku Ware I (died 1750), successor to Osei Kofi Tutu I. By the 1820s, successive rulers had extended Ashanti boundaries southward. Although the northern expansions linked Ashanti with trade networks across the desert and in Hausaland to the east, movements into the south brought the Ashanti into contact, sometimes antagonistic, with the coastal Fante, as well as with the various European merchants whose fortresses dotted the Gold Coast.

Early European contact and the slave trade

When the first Europeans arrived in the late 15th century, many inhabitants of the Gold Coast area were striving to consolidate their newly acquired territories and to settle into a secure and permanent environment. Initially, the Gold Coast did not participate in the export slave trade, rather as Ivor Wilks, a leading historian of Ghana, noted, the Akan purchased slaves from Portuguese traders operating from other parts of Africa, including the Congo and Benin in order to augment the labor needed for the state formation that was characteristic of this period.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive. By 1471, they had reached the area that was to become known as the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast was so-named because it was an important source of gold. The Portuguese interest in trading for gold, ivory, and pepper so increased that in 1482 the Portuguese built their first permanent trading post on the western coast of present-day Ghana. This fortress, a trade castle called São Jorge da Mina (later called Elmina Castle), was constructed to protect Portuguese trade from European competitors, and after frequent rebuildings and modifications, still stands.

The Portuguese position on the Gold Coast remained secure for over a century. During that time, Lisbon sought to monopolise all trade in the region in royal hands, though appointed officials at São Jorge, and used force to prevent English, French, and Flemish efforts to trade on the coast. By 1598, the Dutch began trading on the Gold Coast. The Dutch built forts at Komenda and Kormantsi by 1612.

In 1637 they captured Elmina Castle from the Portuguese and Axim in 1642 (Fort St Anthony). Other European traders joined in by the mid 17th century, largely English, Danes, and Swedes.
The coastline was dotted by more than 30 forts and castles built by Dutch, British, and Danish merchants primarily to protect their interests from other Europeans and pirates. The Gold Coast became the highest concentration of European military architecture outside of Europe.

Sometimes they were also drawn into conflicts with local inhabitants as Europeans developed commercial alliances with local political authorities. These alliances, often complicated, involved both Europeans attempting to enlist or persuade their closest allies to attack rival European ports and their African allies, or conversely, various African powers seeking to recruit Europeans as mercenaries in their inter-state wars, or as diplomats to resolve conflicts.

Historic Map Of The Swedish Gold Coast

Forts were built, abandoned, attacked, captured, sold, and exchanged, and many sites were selected at one time or another for fortified positions by contending European nations.

The Dutch West India Company operated throughout most of the 18th century.
The British African Company of Merchants, founded in 1750, was the successor to several earlier organisations of this type. These enterprises built and manned new installations as the companies pursued their trading activities and defended their respective jurisdictions with varying degrees of government backing.

There were short-lived ventures by the Swedes and the Prussians. The Danes remained until 1850, when they withdrew from the Gold Coast. The British gained possession of all Dutch coastal forts by the last quarter of the 19th century, thus making them the dominant European power on the Gold Coast.

In the late seventeenth century, social changes within the polities of the Gold Coast led to transformations in warfare and to the shift from being a gold exporting and slave importing economy to being a minor local slave exporting economy.
To be sure, slavery and slave trading were already firmly entrenched in many African societies before their contact with Europe. In most situations, men as well as women captured in local warfare became slaves.

In general, however, slaves in African communities were often treated as members of the society with specific rights, and many were ultimately absorbed into their masters’ families as full members. Given traditional methods of agricultural production in Africa, slavery in Africa was quite different from that which existed in the commercial plantation environments of the New World.

Triangular Atlantic Slave Trade Routes

Some scholars have challenged the premise that rulers on the Gold Coast engaged in wars of expansion for the sole purpose of acquiring slaves for the export market. For example, the Ashanti waged war mainly to pacify territories that were under Ashanti control, to exact tribute payments from subordinate kingdoms, and to secure access to trade routes—particularly those that connected the interior with the coast.

It is important to mention, however, that the supply of slaves to the Gold Coast was entirely in African hands. Most rulers, such as the kings of various Akan states engaged in the slave trade, as well as individual local merchants.
A good number of the Slaves were also brought from various countries in the region and sold to middle men.

The demographic impact of the slave trade on West Africa was probably substantially greater than the number actually enslaved because a significant number of Africans perished during wars and bandit attacks or while in captivity awaiting transshipment. All nations with an interest in West Africa participated in the slave trade.
Relations between the Europeans and the local populations were often strained, and distrust led to frequent clashes. Disease caused high losses among the Europeans engaged in the slave trade, but the profits realised from the trade continued to attract them.

The growth of anti-slavery sentiment among Europeans made slow progress against vested African and European interests that were reaping profits from the traffic.
Although individual clergymen condemned the slave trade as early as the 17th century, major Christian denominations did little to further early efforts at abolition. The Quakers, however, publicly declared themselves against slavery as early as 1727. Later in the century, the Danes stopped trading in slaves; Sweden and the Netherlands soon followed.

In 1807, Britain used its naval power and its diplomatic muscle to outlaw trade in slaves by its citizens and to begin a campaign to stop the international trade in slaves. The importation of slaves into the United States was outlawed in 1808. These efforts, however, were not successful until the 1860s because of the continued demand for plantation labor in the New World.

Because it took decades to end the trade in slaves, some historians doubt that the humanitarian impulse inspired the abolitionist movement. According to historian Eric Williams, for example, Europe abolished the trans-Atlantic slave trade only because its profitability was undermined by the Industrial Revolution.

Williams argued that mass unemployment caused by the new industrial machinery, the need for new raw materials, and European competition for markets for finished goods are the real factors that brought an end to the trade in human cargo and the beginning of competition for colonial territories in Africa. Other scholars, however, disagree with Williams, arguing that humanitarian concerns as well as social and economic factors were instrumental in ending the African slave trade.

British Gold Coast
Britain and the Gold Coast: the early years

Neighbouring British and Dutch forts at Sekondi

By the latter part of 19th century the Dutch and the British were the only traders left and after the Dutch withdrew in 1874, Britain made the Gold Coast a protectorate—a British Crown Colony. During the previous few centuries parts of the area were controlled by British, Portuguese, and Scandinavian powers, with the British ultimately prevailing.
These nation-states maintained varying alliances with the colonial powers and each other, which resulted in the 1806 Ashanti-Fante War, as well as an ongoing struggle by the Empire of Ashanti against the British, the four Anglo-Asante Wars.

By the early 19th century, the British acquired most of the forts along the coast. Two major factors laid the foundations of British rule and the eventual establishment of a colony on the Gold Coast: British reaction to the Asante wars and the resulting instability and disruption of trade, and Britain’s increasing preoccupation with the suppression and elimination of the slave trade.

During most of the 19th century, Asante, the most powerful state of the Akan interior, sought to expand its rule and to promote and protect its trade.
The first Ashanti invasion of the coastal regions took place in 1807; the Ashanti moved south again in 1811 and in 1814.

These invasions, though not decisive, disrupted trade in such products as gold, timber, and palm oil, and threatened the security of the European forts. Local British, Dutch, and Danish authorities were all forced to come to terms with Asante, and in 1817 the African Company of Merchants signed a treaty of friendship that recognised Asante claims to sovereignty over large areas of the coast and its peoples.

The coastal people, primarily some of the Fante and the inhabitants of the new town of Accra came to rely on British protection against Asante incursions, but the ability of the merchant companies to provide this security was limited.

The British Crown dissolved the company in 1821, giving authority over British forts on the Gold Coast to Governor Charles MacCarthy, governor of Sierra Leone. The British forts and Sierra Leone remained under common administration for the first half of the century. MacCarthy’s mandate was to impose peace and to end the slave trade. He sought to do this by encouraging the coastal peoples to oppose Kumasi rule and by closing the great roads to the coast. Incidents and sporadic warfare continued, however.
In 1823, the First Anglo-Ashanti War broke out and lasted until 1831.[13] MacCarthy was killed, and most of his force was wiped out in a battle with Asante forces in 1824.

When the English government allowed control of the Gold Coast settlements to revert to the British African Company of Merchants in the late 1820s, relations with the Ashanti were still problematic. From the Asante point of view, the British had failed to control the activities of their local coastal allies. Had this been done, Asante might not have found it necessary to attempt to impose peace on the coastal peoples. MacCarthy’s encouragement of coastal opposition to Asante and the subsequent 1824 British military attack further indicated to Asante authorities that the Europeans, especially the British, did not respect Asante.

In 1830 a London committee of merchants chose Captain George Maclean to become president of a local council of merchants. Although his formal jurisdiction was limited, Maclean’s achievements were substantial; for example, a peace treaty was arranged with Asante in 1831.
Maclean also supervised the coastal people by holding regular court in Cape Coast where he punished those found guilty of disturbing the peace.

Between 1830 and 1843 while Maclean was in charge of affairs on the Gold Coast, no confrontations occurred with Asante, and the volume of trade reportedly increased threefold. Maclean’s exercise of limited judicial power on the coast was so effective that a parliamentary committee recommended that the British government permanently administer its settlements and negotiate treaties with the coastal chiefs that would define Britain’s relations with them.

The government did so in 1843, the same year crown government was reinstated. Commander H. Worsley Hill was appointed first governor of the Gold Coast. Under Maclean’s administration, several coastal tribes had submitted voluntarily to British protection.

Hill proceeded to define the conditions and responsibilities of his jurisdiction over the protected areas. He negotiated a special treaty with a number of Fante and other local chiefs that became known as the Bond of 1844.
This document obliged local leaders to submit serious crimes, such as murder and robbery, to British jurisdiction and laid the legal foundation for subsequent British colonization of the coastal area.

Major General Sir Garnet Wolseley

Additional coastal states as well as other states farther inland eventually signed the Bond, and British influence was accepted, strengthened, and expanded. Under the terms of the 1844 arrangement, the British gave the impression that they would protect the coastal areas; thus, an informal protectorate came into being. As responsibilities for defending local allies and managing the affairs of the coastal protectorate increased, the administration of the Gold Coast was separated from that of Sierra Leone in 1850.

At about the same time, growing acceptance of the advantages offered by the British presence led to the initiation of another important step. In April 1852, local chiefs and elders met at Cape Coast to consult with the governor on means of raising revenue. With the governor’s approval, the council of chiefs constituted itself as a legislative assembly. In approving its resolutions, the governor indicated that the assembly of chiefs should become a permanent fixture of the protectorate’s constitutional machinery, but the assembly was given no specific constitutional authority to pass laws or to levy taxes without the consent of the people.

The Second Anglo-Ashanti War broke out in 1863 and lasted until 1864.
In 1872, British influence over the Gold Coast increased further when Britain purchased Elmina Castle, the last of the Dutch forts along the coast.

[14] The Asante, who for years had considered the Dutch at Elmina as their allies, thereby lost their last trade outlet to the sea. To prevent this loss and to ensure that revenue received from that post continued, the Asante staged their last invasion of the coast in 1873.

After early successes, they finally came up against well-trained British forces who compelled them to retreat beyond the Pra River. Later attempts to negotiate a settlement of the conflict with the British were rejected by the commander of their forces, Major General Sir Garnet Wolseley.
To settle the Asante problem permanently, the British invaded Asante with a sizable military force. This invasion initiated the Third Anglo-Ashanti War. The attack, which was launched in January 1874 by 2,500 British soldiers and large numbers of African auxiliaries, resulted in the occupation and burning of Kumasi, the Ashanti capital.

The subsequent peace treaty of 1875, required the Ashanti to renounce any claim to many southern territories. The Ashanti also had to keep the road to Kumasi open to trade. From this point on, Ashanti power steadily declined. The confederation slowly disintegrated as subject territories broke away and as protected regions defected to British rule.

The warrior spirit of the nation was not entirely subdued, however, and enforcement of the treaty led to recurring difficulties and outbreaks of fighting.
In 1896, the British dispatched another expedition that again occupied Kumasi and that forced Asante to become a protectorate of the British Crown. This became the Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War which lasted from 1894 until 1896. The position of “Asantehene” was abolished and the incumbent, Prempeh I, was exiled.[12] A British resident was installed at Kumasi.

The core of the Ashanti federation accepted these terms grudgingly. In 1900 the Asante rebelled again (the War of the Golden Stool) but were defeated the next year, and in 1902 the British proclaimed Asante a colony under the jurisdiction of the governor of the Gold Coast.[16] The annexation was made with misgivings and recriminations on both sides. With Asante, and golden district subdued and annexed, British colonization of the region became a reality.

British rule of the Gold Coast: the colonial era

Main articles: West Africa Campaign (World War I) and West Africa Campaign (World War II)

Military confrontations between Ashanti and the Fante contributed to the growth of British influence on the Gold Coast, as the Fante states—concerned about Ashanti activities on the coast—signed the Bond of 1844 at Fomena-Adansi,that allowed the British to usurp judicial authority from African courts. As a result of the exercise of ever-expanding judicial powers on the coast and also to ensure that the coastal peoples remained firmly under control, the British proclaimed the existence of the Gold Coast Colony on July 24, 1874, which extended from the coast inland to the edge of Ashanti territory. Though the coastal peoples were unenthusiastic about this development, there was no popular resistance, likely because the British made no claim to any rights to the land.

1896 Map of the British Gold Coast Colony.

In 1896, a British military force invaded Ashanti and overthrew the native asantehene named Prempeh I.
[18] The deposed Ashanti leader was replaced by a British resident at Kumasi.
[19] The British sphere of influence was, thus, extended to include Ashanti following their defeat in 1896.
However, British Governor Hodgson went too far in his restrictions on the Ashanti, when, in 1900, he demanded the “Golden Stool,” the symbol of Ashanti rule and independence for the Ashanti. This caused another revolt on the part of the Ashanti people against the British colonizers.

[18] However, the Ashanti were defeated again in 1901.
Once the asantehene and his council had been exiled, the British appointed a resident commissioner to Ashanti. Each Ashanti state was administered as a separate entity and was ultimately responsible to the governor of the Gold Coast.
In the meantime, the British became interested in the Northern Territories north of Ashanti, which they believed would forestall the advances of the French and the Germans.
After 1896 protection was extended to northern areas whose trade with the coast had been controlled by Ashanti. In 1898 and 1899, European colonial powers amicably demarcated the boundaries between the Northern Territories and the surrounding French and German colonies.
The Northern Territories were proclaimed a British protectorate in 1902. Like the Asante protectorate, the Northern Territories were placed under the authority of a resident commissioner who was responsible to the governor of the Gold Coast. The governor ruled both Asante and the Northern Territories by proclamations until 1946.

With the north under British control, the three territories of the Gold Coast—the Colony (the coastal regions), Asante, and the Northern Territories—became, for all practical purposes, a single political unit, or crown colony, known as the Gold Coast. The borders of present-day Ghana were realized in May 1956 when the people of the Volta region, known as British Mandated Togoland, a vote was made in a plebiscite on whether British Togoland should become part of modern Ghana; the Togoland Congress voted 42% against. 58% of votes opted for integration.