History & Politics

Clash of empires

The earliest humans in the region were hunter-gatherers. Groups then began settling in small communities with the development of agriculture and animal-rearing. Around AD1000, larger population centres formed.

Protecting the coast

Cape Coast Cannon

The Portuguese built a series of forts along the shoreline to protect their trading interests.

By the time the Portuguese arrived in the 15th century, they found large African kingdoms here.

In the 1600s, the Portuguese traded with the powerful Akan people of the Denkyira kingdom. The Akans controlled the gold mines (near what is now Tarkwa and Obusai).

But with gold in reach of the many natural harbours, other European nations were eager to muscle in on the trade.

British interests

Slave ports

Cape Coast castle fort

Throughout the 1700s, 5,000 slaves passed every year through the ports of Cape Coast (above) and Anomabu.

The British eventually began to dominate 'the Gold Coast', as well as the region's even more lucrative slave trade. Captives were supplied by the native Asante/Ashanti.

The slave trade was abolished by Europe in the early 1800s (though not until 1865 in the USA). But the Ashanti had become powerful. They attacked the Fante peoples who were dealing with the British.

Modern-day Ghana

Like most other British colonies, the Gold Coast was ruled indirectly; the British worked through local chiefs. Sometimes the British appointed rulers who were totally unacceptable to the local people.

Leading the way to independence

With the CPP winning a majority of seats, in 1957, Gold Coast became the first African colony to be granted independence in the post-war era. The country was renamed Ghana (after an ancient 13th century empire north of where Ghana now lies).

Resistance to colonial rule emerged as early as 1897 with the Aboriginal Rights Protection Society. But it wasn’t until after the Second World War and the call for ‘self-government’ by the Convention People’s Party (CPP) that a new constitution and elections came.

The CPP’s founder and leader was Kwame Nkrumah, who became head of the country. His government improved the country’s transport network and expanded the education system.

But Ghana fell massively into debt and political opposition was repressed. Nkrumah was deposed in 1966.

Over the following decades, there were a number of military take-overs and corrupt governments. Stable, democratic government returned in 1992 under Jerry Rawlings as the elected president.

With a multi-party system firmly in place, the current president is John Dramani Mahama, following the election of December 2012.