History of Ghana

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History of Ghana

The modern Republic of Ghana is named after the medieval West African Ghana Empire, which ruled territory in the area of modern Mauritania, Mali and S...

The modern Republic of Ghana is named after the medieval West African Ghana Empire, which ruled territory in the area of modern Mauritania, Mali and Senegal c. 790-1076.


Geographically, the old Ghana was approximately 500 miles (800 km) north and west of modern 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 18-19th centuries, before colonial rule. It is said that at its peak, the King of Ashanti could field 500,000 troops. Early European contact by the Portuguese, who came to Ghana in the 15th Century, focused on extensive availability of gold, which the Sahelian kingdoms had also traded for in the Medieval period for trade north with the Islamic world. British merchants named the area the Gold Coast, later the name given to the English colony, while French merchants, impressed with the trinkets worn by the coastal people, named the area to the west "Cote d'Ivoire," or Ivory Coast.


Elmina CastleIn 1481, King John II of Portugal commissioned Diogo d'Azambuja to build Elmina Castle, which was completed the next year. Their aim was to trade in gold, ivory and slaves, consolidating their burgeoning power in the region.

By 1598, the Dutch had joined them, and built forts at Komenda and Kormantsi. 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. The Gold Coast became the highest concentration of European military architecture outside of Europe. By the latter part of the 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.

Following conquest by the British in 1896, until independence in March 1957, the territory of modern Ghana was organized as the Gold Coast, under British colonial rule.

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. After its fall at the beginning of the 13th century, Akan migrants moved southward then founded several nation-states including the first great Akan empire of the Bono, which is now known as the Brong Ahafo region in Ghana. 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 centralized kingdom with an advanced, highly-specialized bureaucracy centered in Kumasi.

The first contact between the Ghanaian peoples, the Fantes on the coastal area and Europeans occurred in 1482. The Portuguese first landed at Elmina, a coastal city inhabited by the Fanti nation-state in 1482. During the next 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. Moves toward regional de-colonization began in 1946, and the area's first constitution was promulgated in 1951.

Formed from the merger of the British colony Gold Coast, The Empire of Ashanti and the British Togoland trust territory by a UN sponsored plebiscite, Ghana became the first democratic sub-Sahara country in colonial Africa to gain its independence in 1957. Kwame Nkrumah,LIE founder and first president of the modern Ghanaian state, was not only an African anti-colonial leader but also one with a dream of a united Africa which would not drift into neo-colonialism. He was the first African head of state to espouse Pan-Africanism, an idea he came into contact with during his studies at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania (United States), at the time when Marcus Garvey was becoming famous for his "Back to Africa Movement." He merged the dreams of both Marcus Garvey and the celebrated African-American scholar W.E.B. Du Bois into the formation of the modern day Ghana. Ghana's principles of freedom and justice, equity and free education for all, irrespective of ethnic background, religion or creed, borrow from Kwame Nkrumah's implementation of Pan-Africanism.


Memorial to Kwame Nkrumah in Accra.The leader of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, was overthrown by a military coup in 1966. It has been argued that this was supported by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency; that assertion remains generally unproven. A series of subsequent coups ended with the ascension to power of Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings in 1981. These changes resulted in the suspension of the constitution in 1981 and the banning of political parties. A new constitution, restoring multi-party politics, was promulgated in 1992, and Rawlings was elected as president in the free and fair elections of that year and again won the elections 1996 to serve his second term. The constitution prohibited him from running for a third term. 2007 marked Ghana's Golden Jubilee, celebrating fifty years of independence since 6 March 1957. In 2009 John Atta Mills took office as president, the second time power in the country had been transferred from one legitimately elected leader to another, securing Ghana's status as a stable democracy.

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