Brief History
The Gold Coast had long been a major bone of contention between European nations seeking to take advantage of the natural and human resources of West Africa. The Portugese first moved into the area and built forts on the coast to allow them to trade with the local tribes. They discovered that the nearby Ashanti did have access to gold from the interior and were keen to supply their defeated enemies as slaves. This attracted the attention of the English who brought back a ship of gold as far back as 1553. The English were followed by French, Danes, Brandenburgers, Dutch and Swedes. Gold, ivory and slaves would turn the coast into a magnet for traders eager to make their fortune.

The most assertive of these nations was to be the Dutch who managed to replace the Portugese formally in 1642 in return for withdrawing their presence from Brazil. The Dutch built a fort at Elimina. The English would build their own fort at Kormatine in 1651. Ten years later they would build a larger one at Cape Castle.

The Dutch and English were frequently at war with one another in the Seventeenth Century and the forts on the Gold Coast would play their part in these conflicts. In 1664 and 1665 the Dutch were able to destroy all but the largest fort at Cape Coast. The Treaty of Breda confirmed Dutch ascendency but the profits from the slave trade would attract the English back.

In 1672 the Royal African Company was created with rights to monopoly access to English markets at least. The RAC built forts at Dixcove, Sekondi, Accra, Whydah and other places, besides upgrading Cape Coast Castle. The African Company of Merchants would later take over the monopoly and would further streamline the efficiency of the slave trade. At its height, 10,000 slaves a year were being exported from the area.

Public opinion back in Britain had turned violently against the inhumanity of the slave trade and it was abolished in 1807. This crippled the profitability of the African Company of Merchants. By 1821, the company had been dissolved and the British government was forced to take over the possession of the forts.

Thanks largely to profits from the slave trade, the Ashanti had risen to be a major force in the area. The Europeans had confined their activities to the coast but from the 1820s the British had begun extending their influence into the interior. They were concerned that the Ashanti were still supplying slaves to the other European nations which had not yet outlawed the slave trade. This led to serious clashes which ultimately became all out war from 1824 to 1831. The British seriously underestimated the power of the Ashanti and the extent of their weaponry thanks to years of investment from the slave trade. A British expedition was defeated at Nsamankow in 1824. The British were wiped out and their governor was killed. The Ashanti were to inflict another defeat on the British at Efutu. Indeed it was only when they attempted to take the formidable Cape Coast Castle that they finally foundered.

The British would build up a new force and join forces with local tribes hostile to the power of the Ashanti to try and reduce the power of the Ashanti. Two years later they were able to finally defeat the Ashanti in open battle at Dodowa. However, even then the Ashanti would not sign any agreements with the British.

The British government was becoming concerned at the cost of the war for such little payback. They wondered if it might not be easier to withdraw from the colony altogether. In 1828 they gave orders for all British officials and garrisons to withdraw to Sierra Leone. They then paid the London Committee of merchants 4000 pounds a year to maintain the forts on their behalf. This did actually make it easier for the Ashanti to come to an independent agreement with the London Committee in 1831. However, anti-slavery campaigners in Britain considered that the deal allowed the Ashanti to continue their slave trade unhindered. The British government was just relieved that it had found a way out of an expensive war with a determined and skilled foe.

In 1844, the Colonial Office resumed its control of the forts from the London Committee. Some of the interior tribes were still requesting British protection - always mindful of the power of the Ashanti. The British agreed nominal rule over inland areas specifically to exercise the right of trying criminals, repressing human sacrifice and other such practices. This was a de facto extension of British control even if there was little evidence on the ground.

The British were still not alone in their control of forts in the area; the Danes and Dutch still operated their own. In fact, the competition between these three powers exacerbated the economic problems of all three countries' settlements and caused endless trouble with the surrounding native tribes. Anxious to cut their losses, the Danish offered to sell their forts to the British government. Behind this offer was the threat that if the British did not buy them then the Danish would offer them to other powers - either the French or Dutch. The British reluctantly offered 10,000 pounds which was excepted by the Danes in 1850.

The Dutch would not sell their rights and forts until 1872. Again, the British were initially reluctant to take over yet more control in the area, but felt morally obliged to support their Fanti allies on the coast who would be crushed by any British withdrawal. In fact, the Dutch withdrawal would actually preempt another war with the Ashanti anyway. The Ashanti were concerned that they no longer had access to any ports except through the British ones. The port of Elmina had to hold off a furious assault by the Ashanti. The Royal Navy had to land marines in the colony whilst a full fledged military expedition was planned under General Wolseley.

By the time of this war, the British had significantly expanded their technological advantages over the Ashanti. There was not going to be the embarrassing repeats of previous defeats. Superior weaponry and tactics would allow the British to enter the Ashanti capital at Kumasi for the first time. On March 14, 1874, the two sides signed the Treaty of Fomena, which required the Ashanti to pay an indemnity of 50,000 ounces of gold, to renounce claims to Elmina and to all payments from the British for the use of forts, and to terminate their alliances with several other states, including Denkyera and Akyem. Additionally, they agreed to withdraw their troops from the coast, to keep the trade routes open, and to halt the practice of human sacrifice.

Gold Coast
Recruitment Drive
The British had achieved their objectives and withdrew to the safety of the coast. However, they did not realise that they had unwittingly destabilised the entire region. Nearby tribes were no longer intimidated by the mighty Ashanti and countless wars would rage for years later. French and German encroachments in neighbouring areas also helped antagonise the situation. There would be more Ashanti Wars in the 1890s culminating in the Ashanti uprising in 1900 which finally allowed the British to annex the Ashanti Empire as the Ashanti protectorate from 1902.

For a time the Gold Coast formed officially a past of the West African Settlements and was virtually a dependency of Sierra Leone. In 1874 the settlements on the Gold Coast and Lagos were created as a separate crown colony, this arrangement lasted until 1886 when Lagos was itself separated from the Gold Coast administration.

Part of German Togoland was included in 1919. In 1946, British Togoland, the Ashanti protectorate, and the Fante protectorate were merged with the Gold Coast to create one colony. It became independent as Ghana in 1957.

Imperial Flag
map of The Gold Coast
1895 West Africa Map
Gold Coast Map 1896
1913 Map of Africa
Gold Coast Railways Map
Gold Coast Railways Map, 1922
1929 Map of West Africa
1946 Map of Gold Coast
1954 West Gold Coast Map
1954 North-West Gold Coast Map
Historical goldcoast
Images of Gold Coast
National Archive Gold Coast Images
Administrators of Gold Coast
1621 - 1957
Videos of Gold Coast
Gold Coast, 1947
The BBC's Winds of Change talks about Kwame Nkrumah and the Legacy of the Empire.

The Ashanti
Dr Casely-Hayford discusses the rise and fall of the Ashanti and their role in the Gold Coast

Who Could Have Known?
A T de B Wilmot explains how a secure job for life in the colonial service turned out to be anything but predictable as he saw service throughout the continent of Africa, through war and beyond decolonisation and into independence. The job may not have been as secure as was promised but it was fascinating in its scope and the opportunities it provided.

Election Day in the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast
Eirwen Lewis gives an her eyewitness account of how the Legislative Assembly elections were run which foreshadowed the independence elections just three years later. And yet, the influence of the old tribal structure was very much in evidence.

Massa Gets to Speak Propa
Robert Yearley remembers how fellow passengers en route to the Gold Coast put him through a crash course in Pidgen English to allow him to communicate upon arrival.

Massa gets Transport
Robert Yearley recalls his 'Crash Course' (literally) in driving in Accra, Gold Coast in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Was it a good idea to buy a car before he had a license to drive?

I remember the Gold Coast
Robert Yearley was sent to the Gold Coast city of Accra in 1948 on secondment from the British Post Office. Yet, within weeks, he was swept up in the wave of riots by ex-servicemen who had been expecting jobs and pensions after having served in the British Imperial forces during World War Two.

Education and Political Change in the Gold Coast
Geoffrey Winter describes working in an Education Office in Western Gold Coast in the late 1940s and early 1950s during a period of transition towards independence.

ODTAA: One Damned Thing After Another
Eric Cunningham recounts a journey of his from Kumasi to Accra in the Gold Coast which seemed to take a dark turn.

A Learning Experience
Eric Cunningham explains how he saw his role as a colonial educational officer change radically in 1950s Gold Coast as the colony was fast-tracked to independence.

Further Reading
Retreat from Empire: Sir Robert Armitage in Africa and Cyprus
by Colin Baker

Glimpses of a Governor's Life
by Sir Hesketh Bell

With Ardours Manifold
by David Boyle

Diary of a Colonial Officer's Wife
by Laura Boyle

Once a District Officer
by Kenneth Bradley

Lying Abroad: Diplomatic Memoirs
by Harry Brind

Colonial Civil Servant
by Sir Alan Burns

In Ashanti and Beyond: The record of a resident magistrate's many years in tropical Africa, his arduous & dangerous treks both in the course of his work and the wonderful ways of beasts & insects,
by A W Cardinall

Khaki and Blue: Military and Police in British Colonial Africa
by Anthony Clayton and David Killingray

Our Days on the Gold Coast, in Ashanti, in the Northern Territories and the British Sphere of Occupation in Togoland
by Lady Elizabeth Clifford

They Went to Bush
by W B Collins

Africa In Transition: The Journey From Traditional To Modern In Africa
by George Coulter

Retired Except on Demand: The Life of Dr. Cicely Williams
by Sally Craddock

Gold Coast And Ghana Memories
Edited by Eric Cunningham

Goodbye to Pith Helmets: A District Commissioner's Account of the Last Years Before Ghana's Independence
by Philip Dennis

Beloved Imperialist: Sir Gordon Guggisberg, Governor of the Gold Coast
by Dr. H B Goodall

The Far Horizon: Portrait of a Colonial Judge
by Sir William Brandford Griffith

Colonial Servant
by Sir John Gutch

War Bush: 81 (West African) Division in Burma 1943-1945
by John A L Hamilton

Letters from a Long Distance Marriage 1940-1957
by Jane Harrison

Sir Matthew Nathan: British Colonial Governor and Civil Servant
by Anthony Haydon

Thomas Hodgkin: Letters from Africa, 1947-56
Edited by Elizabeth Hodgkin

The Iconography Of Independence: Freedoms At Midnight
edited by Robert Holland

Every Road Leads Back Home
by Dora Hutchings

Life in the Colonial Prison Service
by S. E. Hutchings

Cricket in the Backblocks
by Colin Imray

Policeman in Africa
by Colin Imray

Seven Across the Sahara
by William Ingrams

Imperial Bureaucrat: Colonial Administrative Service in the Gold Coast, 1920-39
by Henrika Kuklick

Soldiers, Airmen, Spies And Whisperers: The Gold Coast In World War II
by Nancy Ellen Lawler

Long Ago and Far Away Gold Coast Days 1939-1958
by Allen Leeds

The Long Garden Master in the Gold Coast: Life and times of a Colonial Agricultural Officer in the Gold Coast 1929 - 1947
by Charles Lynn

No Telephone to Heaven: From Apex to Nadir - Colonial Service in Nigeria, Aden, the Cameroons and the Gold Coast 1938-61
by Malcolm Milne

Shenton of Singapore: Governor and Prisoner of War
by Brian Montgomery

Colonial Postscript: The Diary of a District Officer
by John Morley

Retreat from Africa
by Patrick Mullins

Africa in War and Peace
by Eric Packham

Business and Decolonization in West Africa, c 1940-1960
by Sir Frederick Pedler

Private Secretary (Female)/Gold Coast
by Erica Powell

Sir Charles Arden-Clarke
by David Rooney

Gold Coast to Ghana
by Colin Russell

Footprints, the Memoirs of Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke
by Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke

Colonial Sunset - A Worm's Eye View
by Ralph Stephenson

My Africa
by W.E.F. Ward

Gold Coast Diaries: Chronicles of Political Officers in West Africas by Thora Williamson

Guggisberg (West African History)
by Ronald Wraith

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