Ghana, country, Africa: Early History to Independence

Early History to Independence

In precolonial times the area of present-day Ghana comprised a number of independent kingdoms, including Gonja and Dagomba in the north, Ashanti in the interior, and the Fanti states along the coast. In 1482 the first European fort was established by the Portuguese at Elmina. Trade was begun, largely in gold and slaves, and intense competition developed among many European nations for trading advantages. With the decline of the slave trade in the 19th cent., only the British, Danes, and Dutch still maintained forts on the Gold Coast. The Danes (1850) and Dutch (1872) withdrew in the face of expansionist activities by the Ashanti kingdom; the British, however, remained and allied themselves with the Fanti states against Ashanti.

In 1874 the British defeated Ashanti and organized the coastal region as the colony of the Gold Coast. There was fighting between British and Ashanti again in 1896, and in 1901 the British made the kingdom a colony. In the same year the Northern Territories, a region north of Ashanti, were declared a British protectorate. After World War I part of the German colony of Togoland was mandated to the British, who linked it administratively with the Gold Coast colony. In the Gold Coast, nationalist activity, which began in the interwar period, intensified after World War II. Kwame Nkrumah of the Convention People's Party (CPP) emerged as the leading nationalist figure. In 1951, Britain granted a new constitution, which had been drawn up by Africans, and general elections were held. The CPP won overwhelmingly and Nkrumah became premier.

Sections in this article:

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Ghanaian Political Geography