History of West Africa Gold Coast 1874-1918

The Gold Coast, 1815-1874

In the eras of the gold- and slave trade, the Gold Coast hasd been the centre of the European trade with West Africa. On the Gold Coast, the bulk of the European trade factories were concentrated; the Portuguese, Dutch, Danes, British, French, temporarily even the Swedes and Brandenburgers competed for a share in the lucrative trade. Of course, the geographical term 'Gold Coast' extended beyond the later British colony by that name, including the coasts of Togo and Dahomey (modern Benin).
By 1815, only three countries maintained fortified trading factories on the Gold Coast - the Dutch, the Danes (Accra) and the British. The Danish and Dutch chartered colonial companies had gone bankrupt and their assets had been taken over by the respective state. Denmark had been the first country to abolish slave trade, in 1803 (proclaimed in 1792).
In 1807, Britain declared slave trade outlawed; this sparkled violent clashes with the ASHANTI who had conquered the coastal Fanti states and were now direct neighbours of the British.
The COMPANY OF AFRICAN MERCHANTS operated the Gold Coast Forts; until 1807 their main trade had been in slaves. There was a limited gold trade and trade in palm oil. The 1807 ban on the slave trade hurt it significantly; in 1821 her charter was revoked.
As British West Africa trade was sluggish, the British forts on the Gold Coast administratively were placed under the governor of Sierra Leone, the combined colony (with Gambia) being referred to as British West Africa; the Gold Coast would remain under the administration at Freetown, with brief interruptions, until 1874. An expedition against the Ashanti in 1824 ended in disaster; in 1826 the British defeated the latter. In 1850 Denmark sold her holdings on the Gold Coast, which included Christiansborg (Accra), to the British. In the Anglo-Dutch Convention on 1872, the Dutch ceded their holdings on the Gold Coast to the British, in return for British recognition of Dutch sovereignty over Aceh. So Britain became the sole colonial power on a shortened Gold Coast (without the coast of Togo, Dahomey).
In 1863 the Ashanti invaded the coastal region; two British campaigns againt them were fruitless. The Select Committee on West Africa recommended to British parliament in 1865 to no more extend areas under British protection, to establish self-government and to withdraw from all settlements except for Sierra Leone (after Flint 1965 p.369).

European forts in Ghana, by Marco Ramerini; Castles and Forts of Ghana, from Akwaaba
Danish-Norwegian slave trade, from UNESCO.NO
REFERENCE J.E. Flint, The Growth of European Influence in West Africa in the Nineteenth Century, pp.359-379 in : JF. Ade Ajayi and Ian Espie (ed.), A Thousand Years in West African History, Ibadan UP (1965) 1967 [G]
W.E.F. Ward, The Colonial Phase in British West Africa, pp.405-439 in : JF. Ade Ajayi and Ian Espie (ed.), A Thousand Years in West African History, Ibadan UP (1965) 1967 [G]
Article : Africa, in : The American Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events 1864 pp.1-2 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on April 1st 2005, last revised on September 1st 2007

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