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This special topic explores the period prior to the 6th of March 1957, when the modern country of Ghana was ruled by a colonial administration as part of the British Empire.


The British were among the last in a string of European powers to arrive on this stretch of West African coastline. The first Europeans to arrive on what many centuries later would become Ghanaian soil occured in 1471, and it was not the British, but the Portuguese, who landed at a small village in a crescent-shaped bay that they soon christened el mina - the mine - as a result of the precious mineral that was being extracted and shipped back to Portugal - gold.

Indeed, the Portuguese would come to know the area as de costa da el mina de ouro, or in English, the coast of gold mines. Recognizing that their tenuous holding must be protected from other foreign powers, the Portuguese also constructed São Jorge da Mina, the first fortress to appear on this stretch of coastline, and Elmina also became an important trading port for other resources, such as salt, which was also produced at Elmina, and ivory & cotton.

The Portuguese quickly established further fortresses at Axim (Fort São Antonio) in 1515, and Shama (Fort São Sebastian) in 1520, to protect the strategic Ankobra & Pra Rivers (respectively). For over a century, the Portuguese would dominate the region, and their monopoly would only be hindered by the odd trading ship that passed through the region.


The first serious opposition to the Portuguese holdings were the Dutch, who bombarded Elmina, but failed to take the fort.







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Copyright © 2006 S. A. DeCaro
Last Updated ( Friday, 05 February 2010 )