Between the 1100s and up to the 1700s, about
100 small states were developed in the area that today
constitutes Ghana. In the 15th century, the mighty
Ashanti kingdom attracted European merchants who were
looking for gold, ivory and slaves. The British
eventually came to dominate what they called the Gold
Coast, which in 1901 became a British colony. Gradually,
a political resistance to colonial power emerged within
a well-educated upper class. In 1957 Ghana became
independent under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah.
The earliest finds from simple communities in the
area that today constitute Ghana are estimated to be
between 100,000 and 200,000 years old. The first smaller
state formations probably arose during the 12th century.
These little kingdoms were mainly developed around a
lively trade in gold, ivory and slaves.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Ghana, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
In the 18th century there were hundreds of small
states in the area, of which the most powerful were
Ashanti and Fanti. The two kingdoms often ended up in
armed conflict with each other over the lucrative trade.
From the end of the 15th century, trade also
attracted Europeans. Portuguese and British were among
those who established trading stations along the coast,
and in the 17th century there were also Swedes and Danes
there. By the early 19th century, the British had
out-competed the other Europeans. The slave trade
continued until the 1830s when it was banned.
Ashanti long resisted fierce opposition from the
British, but the kingdom suffered a severe defeat when
the capital of Kumasi with its powerful palace was
conquered by 1874. Kumasi was burned down by the
British, who, however, were impressed by the city's
library with all its books in many languages. The
fighting continued until 1901, when the whole area
became British under the name Gold Coast.
The Gold Coast developed into one of the UK's most
successful and profitable colonies. The British
maintained the domestic system of chieftains and
controlled the colony through indirect rule. The
colonial power invested heavily on railways, ports, gold
mines and cocoa plantations. In 1913, cocoa was the most
important export commodity. Investments in the colony
came from wealthy international businessmen.
The development led to relatively high prosperity in
the Gold Coast and among the indigenous population a
well-educated, politically conscious upper class
eventually emerged. It was within this group that
resistance to colonial power grew and a nationalist
movement was formed. Resistance to the British increased
after World War II when more social groups joined the
nationalist movement, including the soldiers who fought
for the British during the war.
Nkrumah leads Ghana to independence
In 1949, the radical Socialist Assembly People's
Party (CPP) was formed with Kwame Nkrumah as leader.
Nkrumah advocated a free Africa of the United States,
and through his political work for this vision he came
to play a major role in the African liberation from
Nkrumah was imprisoned in 1950, the same year that
the British gave the Gold Coast some autonomy. In 1951
elections were held for a local parliament. The CPP won
by strong support from the middle class youth. Nkrumah
was released and formed government in 1952.
In a UN-supervised referendum in 1956, the British
part of the neighboring Togoland chose to join the Gold
Coast. In 1957, the colony became independent under the
name Ghana ("War King"), which was taken from a medieval
kingdom further north in West Africa.
Oil recovery begins
Ghana begins oil extraction in the Jubilee field six miles off the coast.