Gold Coast

Gold Coast
   A territory on the coast of West Africa and the hub of British involvement in the slave trade during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Britain gradually extended its authority over the Gold Coast during the nineteenth century as it sought to enforce the abolition of the slave trade. During the twentieth century the Gold Coast rapidly developed its economy and in 1957, it attained independence, as the state of Ghana.
   During the nineteenth century the major obstacle to the extension of British control over the Gold Coast was not the Fanti coastal traders, with whom the British had a well-established commercial relationship, but the Ashanti confederacy that dominated the interior. In 1824, the British fought an unsuccessful war against the Ashanti and it took until the 1840s for Britain to establish permanent control over the coastal trading forts. The Coast of Africa and Falklands Act of 1843 proclaimed British jurisdiction over the territories adjacent to the coastal forts and settlements, but it took another two decades to extend the writ of the British Empire further inland. The British fought an inconclusive war against the Ashanti in 1863–1864, which was sufficiently expensive to persuade Parliament to bring British expansion to a temporary halt. In 1873, however, Sir Garnet Wolseley led a punitive expedition against the Ashanti in which his forces, equipped with breech-loading rifles and protected against malaria by the use of quinine, were much more successful than in earlier campaigns. In 1874, the Aborigines’ Protection Society and the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society persuaded the British government to commit itself to the abolition of domestic slavery on the Gold Coast. British missionary activity increased during the late nineteenth century and the Fanti, who were very willing to accommodate Christianity, developed into a reliable urban elite of imperial collaborators. The Asanti, however, refused to cooperate, and in 1895 the British government established a protectorate to exercise jurisdiction over the entire indigenous population.
   The imposition of formal British control coincided with the articulation of a radical economic vision by Joseph Chamberlain at the Colonial Office, who argued forcefully that Britain must develop the empire with investment capital. Yet during the twentieth century, the economy of the Gold Coast developed almost entirely independently of British investment capital. African farmers responded to increasing demand for chocolate by cultivating cocoa, which turned the Gold Coast into one of the richest countries in Africa. This economic development was accompanied by political aspirations and Africans were brought into the higher civil service of the colony. The process of political integration accelerated after the World War II as a consequence of a new constitution and the growth of African nationalism, and in 1957 Kwame Nkrumah became president of the newly independent state of Ghana.
   See also <>; <>; <>; <>; <>.
    Havinden, Michael, and Meredith, David. Colonialism and Development: Britain and Its Tropical Colonies, 1850-1960 . London: Routledge, 1993;
    Kimble, David. A Political History of Ghana: The Rise of Gold Coast Nationalism, 1850-1928 . Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963;
    Newbury, Colin, ed. British Policy Towards West Africa. Select Documents, 1875-1914 . Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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