History Files
 

 

African Kingdoms

West Africa

 

 

 

Ghana

Ghana is a West African state which opens out onto the South Atlantic Ocean. Today it is bordered by Burkino Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and Ivory Coast in the west. Inhabited by 1500 BC, the various peoples who make up modern Ghana only arrived by around the thirteenth century AD. The region witnessed the rise of various kingdoms such as those of the Asante and Fante (Ewe and Ga), before contact with Portugal and then Britain opened it up to trade and colonisation. The country's best-known (semi) historical period before the modern age was that of the Old Ghana empire, or Wagadou. This was at its height in the last part of the first millennium AD, but much of its detail was not recorded, at least not in any form that has survived for modern scholars.

Old Ghana / Ghana Empire / Soninke Empire of Wagadou
c.AD 350 - 1237

The native name for this state was Wagadou. 'Ghana' simply means 'king', but this has come to be the term by which this nation is generally referred. The empire of Ghana was located in what is now south-eastern Mauritania, western Mali, and eastern Senegal, and it emerged following incursions by Berber tribes which caused the collapse of the previous social organisation. The capital was at Kumbi Saleh. Old Ghana controlled the Mandinka tribes of Mali, including the kingdom of Kangaba.

fl c.350

Kaya Maja

Ruler of the Akwar area small settlements.

c.350 - c.622

Twenty-one kings whose names are unknown

Ghana Empire village
A typical Ghananaian empire village

c.622 - c.750

Twenty-one kings whose names are unknown

fl c.750

Majan Dyabe Sisse

Soninke 'ghana'.

c.750 - c.1040

Several kings, names unknown

1040 - 1062

Bassi

Soninke 'ghana'.

1062 - 1068

Tunka Menin

Soninke 'ghana'.

1062 - 1076

Fourteen years of war against the fanatical Almorivids ends with the capture and burning of Kumbi Saleh. The Almoravids are unable to hold onto their prize, and the much-weakened Ghanaians retake it. The Mandinka of Mali take the opportunity to break away from Ghanaian rule.

1068 - 1076

?

Name or names unknown.

1076 - c.1090

Kambine Diaresso

c.1090 - 1100

Suleiman

1100 - 1230

Ghana ceases to be a commercial or military power after 1100. For a brief period, until about 1230, the Soso people, who are rabidly anti-Muslim, control a kingdom making up the southern portions of the Ghanaian empire, but the Almorivid revolution effectively halts the growth of kingdoms and empires in the Sahel for almost a century.

c.1100 - 1120

Bannu Bubu

c.1120 - 1130

Majan Wagadu

c.1130 - 1140

Gane

c.1140 - 1160

Musa

c.1160 - 1180

Birama

c.1180 - 1200

Diara Kante

c.1200 - 1234

Sumanguru

1234 - 1237

?

1237

The kingdom falls to Mali. The trading state of Bonoman (or Bono Manso), which has been created by the Abron people, forms a medieval Akan kingdom that gives birth to several Akan states. It is located in the modern Brong-Ahafo region of modern Ghana and eastern Ivory Coast, a large chunk of central western Ghana which crosses the modern border.

1400 - 1415

Kind Reidja Akba

Ruler of the Akwar area small settlements.

1500

Various clan states are formed by the migrant Akan communities, with Denkyira becoming prominent in what is now central Ghana and Akwamu in central southern Ghana. Another state which starts off small and insignificant is that of Kwaaman.

Akwamu

Akwamu (otherwise known as Akuambo) was a small clan state that was founded by the Akan people, along the southern edges of the forests of what is now Ghana in West Africa. It was one of a patchwork of Akan communities that were at this time coalescing into nascent minor kingdoms following migration from Bonoman. At least two of these new minor kingdoms became prominant: Akwamu in the south and Denkyira in the central western area of Akan territory. For around a century and-a-half Denkyira held the upper hand in central Ghana because it had the best gold reserves, and gold meant power, while Akwamu expanded its own territory eastwards, towards southern Togoland and into Benin.

The origins of Akwamu are almost entirely obscure, just like those of the far greater kingdom that it would help to found - Asante. The Akan people of this and the other kingdoms had already begun to start clearing areas of the forest and to cultivate food crops, allowing their numbers to increase. They needed more labour to clear additional areas of the forest, so they took slaves to help. Farming prospered, producing wealth in food, and that drove the Akan on to achieve more.

Little more than a list of names of Akwamu's rulers is known. Anything else about them is largely the product of oral tradition and should be viewed with suspicion as even the existence of the great Akan king, Osei Tutu, who was supported by Akwamu, cannot be confirmed by historical evidence. That support given by Akwamu helped a minor clan state by the name of Kwaaman to prosper. This act also unwittingly planted the seeds of Akwamu's own eventual destruction.

(Additional information from Akwamu 16401750 - A Study of the Rise and Fall of a West African Empire, Ivor Willks, 2001, and from External Link: Ghana Web, and the Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

1621

English Gold Coast is created with Kormantin as its chief post, under the Company of Merchants Trading to Guinea. Akwamu is largely separated from this coastal strip by the Fanti people, so that the first effects of its creation are not felt this far inland (but this also means that Akwamu itself is not properly recorded for posterity). Gold Coast's known governors are shown in the main Ghana page, alongside the rulers of the Kwaaman clan state.

c.1680 - 1701

Denkyira's neighbours begin to band together under the leadership of Osei Tutu of Kwaaman, who is largely protected by Akwamu. The subsequent destruction of Denkyira as a leading power gives birth to the Asante kingdom under Osei Tutu. He forms a capital at Kumasi and he and his successors rule as the asantehene, the king of all Asante. They use their newfound wealth to ensure prominent displays of gold as a symbol of their grip on power. Previously independent neighbouring states are gradually integrated into the expanding kingdom. Their chiefs are made subjects, and their territories are made regions of the new kingdom. Captive enemy warriors are enslaved and put to work in feeding the economy and helping to further expand the kingdom. Akwamu to the south remains an honoured friend and supporter.

Kwaaman / Kumaseman Clan State

Kwaaman (otherwise known as 'Kwaaman State') was a small clan state that was founded by the Akan people, deep in the forests of what is now Ghana in West Africa. It was one of a patchwork of Akan communities that were at this time coalescing into nascent minor kingdoms following migration from Bonoman. At least two of these new minor kingdoms, Akwamu in the south and Denkyira (pronounced Dench-ii-ra, and otherwise known as Denkyera) in the central western area of Akan territory, became prominent and powerful. For around a century and-a-half Denkyira held the upper hand in central Ghana because it had the best gold reserves, and gold meant power, while Akwamu expanded its own territory eastwards, towards southern Togoland and into Benin.

The origins of Kwaaman are, as usual for this period and region, almost entirely obscure, just like those of Akwamu and Denkyira. It seems to have begun as a small settlement by one of the last groups of Akan migrants to arrive. All of the migrants had already begun to start clearing areas of the forest and to cultivate food crops, allowing their numbers to increase. They needed more labour to clear additional areas of the forest, so they took slaves to help. Farming prospered, producing wealth in food, and that drove the Akan on to achieve more.

Only a list of names of Kwaaman's rulers is known. Anything else about them is largely the product of oral tradition and should be viewed with suspicion as even the existence of the great Akan king, Osei Tutu cannot be confirmed by historical evidence. Support given by Akwamu helped this minor clan state to prosper by protecting it from Denkyira. According to tradition, towards the end of the seventeenth century Okomfo Anokye, chief priest of Osei Tutu, planted two trees in the forest and predicted that one tree would live and become the capital of the Asante kingdom. One tree faltered and died while the other, at Kwaaman, lived and this was given the name 'Kumasi', which either means 'the tree that lived' or which derives from 'Kum-ase', meaning 'under Kum', the kum tree under which the king and his people would often sit. Either way, the capital of Asante was confirmed.

(Additional information from External Links: Ghana Web, and the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and from World Statesmen.)

c.1570 - ?

Otumfuo Nana Twum

The first surviving name in a list of Kwaaman rulers.

? - c.1600

Otumfuo Nana Antwi

Kwaamanhene of Kwaaman.

c.1600 - 1630

Otumfuo Nana Kobia Amamfi

Kwaamanhene of Kwaaman.

1621

English Gold Coast is created by the Company of Merchants Trading to Guinea (referred here as the CMTG to save space - known as the Company of London Merchants from 1651), with Kormantin as its chief post. The Kwaaman state is separated from this coastal strip by the Fanti people, so that the first effects of its creation are not felt this far inland (but this also means that Akwamu itself is not properly recorded for posterity). Gold Coast's known governors are shown here with a shaded background to differentiate them from the native rulers.

1621 - 1623

Sir William St John

English governor of Gold Coast.

c.1630 - 1660

Otumfuo Nana Oti Akenten

Kwaamanhene and then kumasehene of Kwaaman.

1632 - 1633

Arend de Groot

English chief factor of the CMTG.

1633 - 1638

John Wood

English chief factor of the CMTG.

1638 - 1640

Timothy Mulgrave

English chief factor of the CMTG.

c.1640

The Kwaaman clan state expands under the leadership of Otumfuo Nana Oti Akenten. He wages a series of successful military operations against neighbouring Akan states, bringing a larger surrounding territory into alliance with the Kwaaman state, which can also be known as the Kumaseman state from this point forwards. This suggests that the chief settlement of Kwaaman has already been renamed Kumasi or Kum-ase and that the tale of its founding by Osei Tutu has been lifted from earlier tradition. The rulers of the expanded state are titled kumasehene, but Denkyira is still the region's dominant state.

1640 - 1641

Arend De Groot

English chief factor for the second time.

1641 - 1642

Timothy Mulgrave

English chief factor for the second time.

1642 - 1644

Six employees of the Company of Merchants Trading to Guinea manage the administration of the Gold Coast colony during this period. Their names are unknown.

1644

Timothy Mulgrave

English chief factor for the third time.

1644 - 1645

Francis Searle

English chief factor of the CMTG.

1645

James Leveson

English chief factor of the CMTG.

1645 - 1646

Timothy Mulgrave

English chief factor for the fourth time.

1646

James Leveson

English chief factor for the second time.

1646

Francis Searle

English chief factor for the second time. Died.

1646 - 1650

George Middleton

English chief factor of the CMTG.

1650

Thomas Crispe

English chief factor of the CMTG.

1650 - 1651

George Middleton

English chief factor for the second time.

1651 - 1654

George Middleton

English chief factor of the Company of London Merchants.

1654 - 1655

John Hulwood

English chief factor of the Company of London Merchants.

1655 - 1657

Lancelot Stavely

English chief factor of the Company of London Merchants.

1657 - 1658

Lancelot Stavely

English agent of the East India Company.

1658 - 1659

James Congett

English agent of the East India Company.

1659 - 1661

? Chappell

English agent of the East India Company. First name unknown.

c.1660 - 1680

Otumfuo Nana Obiri Yeboah

Kumasehene of Kwaaman.

1661 - 1662

Edmund Young

English agent of the East India Company.

1662 - 1663

John Puliston

English agent of the East India Company.

1663

Thomas Davies

English agent of the East India Company.

1663

Stephen Mitchell

English agent of the East India Company.

1663

Francis Selwyn

English agent of the Royal Company of Adventurers.

1663

Francis Selwyn's term of office as agent for the Royal Company of Adventurers is followed by a short period between September 1663 to May 1664 in which seven merchants are rotated as agents on a monthly basis.

1664 - 1665

Francis Selwyn

English agent for the second time. Captured by the Dutch.

1665 - 1667

Gilbert Beavis

English agent of the Royal Company of Adventurers. Died.

1667 - 1672

Thomas Pearson

English agent of the Royal Company of Adventurers.

1672

Abraham Holditch

English agent of the Royal Company of Adventurers.

1672 - 1673

Abraham Holditch

English agent-general of the Royal African Company.

1673 - 1676

Thomas Mellish

English agent-general of the Royal African Company.

1676 - 1678

Ralph Hodgkins

English agent-general of the Royal African Company. Died.

1677 - 1678

William Croxton

English agent-general of the Royal African Company. Died.

1678 - 1680

Nathaniel Bradley

English agent-general of the Royal African Company.

c.1680 - 1701

Osei Tutu I (Opemsuo)

Nephew. Turned Kwaaman into Asante kingdom around 1701.

c.1680 - 1701

Denkyira's neighbours begin to band together under the leadership of Osei Tutu who is largely protected by Akwamu. The subsequent destruction of Denkyira as a leading power gives birth to the Asante kingdom under Osei Tutu. He forms a capital at Kumasi and he and his successors rule as the asantehene, the king of all Asante. They use their newfound wealth to ensure prominent displays of gold as a symbol of their grip on power. Previously independent neighbouring states are gradually integrated into the expanding kingdom. Their chiefs are made subjects, and their territories are made regions of the new kingdom. Captive enemy warriors are enslaved and put to work in feeding the economy and helping to further expand the kingdom. Akwamu to the south remains an honoured friend and supporter.

1680 - 1684

Henry Greenhill

English agent-general of the Royal African Company.

1684

Richard Thelwall

English agent-general of the Royal African Company.

1684 - 1687

Henry Nurse

English agent-general of the Royal African Company.

1687 - 1691

Samuel Humphreys

English chief merchant of the Royal African Company.

1691 - 1692

Robert Elrves

English chief merchant of the Royal African Company.

1692 - 1693

Mark Bedford Whiting

English chief merchant of the Royal African Company.

1693 - 1696

Joshua Platt

English chief merchant of the Royal African Company.

1696 - 1698

William Ronan

English chief merchant of the Royal African Company.

1698 - 1700

Nicholas Buckeridge

English chief merchant of the Royal African Company.

1700 - 1701

Joseph Baggs

English agent-general of the Royal African Company. Died.

c.1701

Around this time the growing Kwaaman clan state has built up enough momentum to form the kingdom of Asante in what is now central Ghana. Only now does it begin to come into contact with the Gold Coast territories to its south.

Kingdom of Asante & Gold Coast Colony
c.AD 1701 - 1902

In a history of Africa that can at times be difficult to uncover, one kingdom that stands out is that of the Asante (or Ashanti). One of the continent's most impressive kingdoms, it was built on slaves and gold. The kingdom was founded deep in the forests of what is now Ghana in West Africa, an unusual location for a sophisticated kingdom to emerge.

The kingdom's origins are almost entirely obscure. Archaeologists of the University of Ghana have recently discovered terracotta artefacts in the forests dating to the ninth and tenth centuries. They depict animals and humans and are believed to have formed part of a shrine, but who built it is another question, as it was raised in the time of Old Ghana. To date no link has been found between these objects and the Asante kingdom. Its ancestors were the Akan, who hunted for food in the depths of the thick forests in the fifteenth century but who underwent a remarkable transition between then and the seventeenth century. They started to clear areas of the forest and cultivate food crops, allowing their numbers to increase. They needed more labour to clear additional areas of the forest, so they took slaves to help, albeit slaves of a less oppressive and more socially flexible nature than was often the case with the later Transatlantic slave trade. Farming prospered, producing wealth in food, and that drove the Akan on to achieve more. Then they discovered gold.

By the mid-1600s, a patchwork of Akan communities had grown into minor states, one of which was the Asante precursor state of Kwaaman. The most powerful of these states was Denkyira (pronounced Dench-ii-ra) in the central western area of Akan territory, which had the richest gold mines in the forest. Denkyira's great wealth meant that it controlled the local economy and slave trade, so its neighbours banded together under the leadership of Osei Tutu of Kwaaman (born perhaps in the 1640s but with a somewhat doubtful existence that cannot be confirmed by historical evidence). The subsequent destruction of Denkyira as a leading power gave birth to the Asante kingdom. With the guidance of his chief priest, Okomfo Anokye, Osei Tutu formed a capital at Kumasi which, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was the centre of the kingdom's power. He and his successors ruled as the asantehene, the king of all Asante, and they used their wealth to ensure prominent displays of gold as a symbol of their grip on power.

The territory that largely forms modern Ghana essentially became two rival states when Britain established its own coastal colony in 1621 - Asante and Gold Coast - and only one of them would win the struggle for superiority. At first, the British colony was a relatively minor affair, and those of its governors who are known are shown here with a shaded background while the asantehene are shown as normal.

(Additional information from the BBC documentary series, Lost Kingdoms of Africa, first broadcast on 5 January 2010, from English Chief Factors on the Gold Coast 1632-1753, R Porter, from Ghana: A Country Study, Berry La Verle (Ed), 1994, and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and Manhyia Palace, and British Battles, and The British Empire, and the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Country Studies - Ghana, and from World Statesmen.)

c.1701 - 1717

Osei Tutu I (Opemsuo)

Turned Kwaaman into the Asante kingdom. Ambushed and killed.

1701 - 1702

Edward Newse

English agent-general of the Royal African Company. Died.

1702 - 1703

Howsley Freeman

English agent-general of the Royal African Company.

1703 - 1711

Sir Dalby Thomas

English agent-general of the Royal African Company. Died.

1707

English Gold Coast becomes British Gold Coast on 1 May. The Asante use their trading networks to sell slaves for profit to the British and other European nations who trade along the coast. In return, they buy European weapons which they use to further increase the size of the kingdom.

British and Asante leaders
The British probably met up with the Asante leaders at an early point in the expansion of Gold Coast, although this 1819 illustrates a meeting of the early eighteenth century, as confirmed by the headgear worn by the British soldiers

1711 - 1717

Seth Grosvenor

British agent-general of the Royal African Company.

1717 - 1718

William Johnson

British captain-general of the Royal African Company. Died.

1718 - 1750

Opoku Ware I

Relationship to Osei Tutu unknown.

During his reign, Opuku Ware fights wars of expansion that bring the northern states of Mamprusi, Dagomba, and Gonja under Asante influence. He also defeats the Bono, another Akan state, by 1723.

1718 - 1719

James Phipps

British captain-general of the Royal African Company.

1719

James Deane

British captain-general of the Royal African Company. Died.

1719 - 1722

James Phipps

British captain-general for a second time.

1722 - 1723

Henry Dodson

British captain-general of the Royal African Company.

1723 - 1726

John Tinker

British captain-general of the Royal African Company.

1726 - 1727

Philip Franklin

British captain-general of the Royal African Company.

1727

Well south of the early Asante kings, the administration of Gold Coast is reformed, using a resurrected three-man triumvirate format, with only the seniormost of them shown here. The individuals involved rotate regularly, usually on an annual basis, and the same senior chief agent may oversee several such rotations, often with the same names cropping up many times.

1727 - 1729

Philip Franklin

British chief agent of the Royal African Company.

1729 - 1732

John Braithwaite

British chief agent of the Royal African Company.

1732 - 1734

Benjamin Peake

British chief agent of the Royal African Company.

1734 - 1737

Edward Stephens

British chief agent of the Royal African Company.

1737 - 1738

Jeremiah Tinker

British chief agent of the Royal African Company.

1738 - 1741

John Cope

British chief agent of the Royal African Company.

1742 - 1749

David Crichton

British chief agent of the Royal African Company.

1749

Thomas Boteler

British chief agent of the Royal African Company.

1749 - 1750

Richard Stockwell

British governor of the Royal African Company.

1750

John Roberts

British governor of the Royal African Company.

1750 - 1764

Kusi Obodum

1750

The Company of Merchants Trading to Africa takes over administration of Gold Coast from the Royal African Company (which retains its legal rights until it is dissolved in April 1752). The last governor of the Royal African Company is also president of the council until December 1750, and he continues his role as governor under the Committee of Merchants.

1750 - 1751

John Roberts

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1751 - 1756

Thomas Melvil

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1756

William Tymewell

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1756 - 1757

Charles Bell

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1757 - 1761

Nassau Senior

Acting British governor.

1761 - 1763

Charles Bell

British governor for the second time.

1763 - 1766

William Mutter

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1764 - 1777

Osei Kwame (Oko-Awia)

1766

John Hippersley

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1766 - 1769

Gilbert Petrie

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1769 - 1770

John Crossle

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1770 - 1777

David Mill

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1777 - 1798

Osei Kwame Panyin

Unpopular ruler who killed family members and subjects.

1777 - 1780

Richard Miles

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1780 - 1781

John Roberts

British governor for the second time.

1781 - 1782

John B Weuves

Acting British governor.

1782 - 1784

Richard Miles

British governor for the second time.

1784 - 1787

James Morgue

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1787

Thomas Price

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1787 - 1789

Thomas Morris

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1789 - 1791

William Fielde

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1791 - 1792

John Gordon

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1792 - 1798

Archibald Dalzel

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1798 - 1799

Opoku Fofie

1798 - 1799

Jacob Mould

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1799 - 1800

John Gordon

British governor for the second time.

1800 - 1823

Osei Bonsu

1800 - 1802

Archibald Dalzel

British governor for the second time.

1800s

By now, Asante has grown to such a size that it has a population of two million, an incredible number for nineteenth century Africa. It has more than doubled its size since the seventeenth century, incorporating territory that is a sixteen day walk away from the central capital at Kumasi. During his reign, Osei Bonsu defeats the Fanti confederation and dominates Gold Coast trade.

Kumasi
Asante was growing rapidly by the early 1800s, both its empire and its capital at Kumasi which is shown here in a late nineteenth century depiction

1802 - 1805

Jacob Mould

British governor for the second time.

1805 - 1807

George Torrane

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1807 - 1816

Edward White

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1807

The slave trade in Britain is abolished, and Asante is affected. Trade has to switch to other products and Kumasi suffers a population drop as people move towards the southern provinces, nearer the coast, to engage in new trading ventures. Payment in gold for European items causes a shortage, so gold is hoarded and becomes even more scarce. However, Asante has already started to expand towards that same coast, impinging on neighbouring Fanti territory from 1806. By 1814 the Fanti are broken.

? - 1812

Henry Meredith

British commander of Fort Winnebah. Killed by natives.

1816 - 1817

Joseph Dawson

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1817

Thomas Bowditch visits the kingdom from England and writes a remarkable account of his attendance at the royal court, noting its lavish display of showy cloths and silks, animals, and golden swords. The king wields great power over his people, and is happy to display his wealth by wearing more gold than anyone else while his ministers hold the skulls of opponents who have been overcome by the king.

1817 - 1822

John Hope Smith

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1821

Britain abolishes the African Company of Merchants and seizes privately held land along the coast, incorporating it into the Gold Coast colony. Suddenly Asante is forced to recognise that it is not the only major power in the region and the two begin an unspoken struggle for superiority.

As far as Britain is concerned, the formalisation of the Gold Coast crown colony not only helps to keep the competing French and their Ivory Coast territory from expanding eastwards, but also gives Britain a foothold in influencing Asante's affairs. Only grass and bush separates the French West Africa territories to the north from Asante, and the kingdom of Dahomey borders Asante to the east so the French focus their attentions here instead.

1822

Sir Charles MacCarthy

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1822

James Chisholm

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1822 - 1824

Sir Charles MacCarthy

British governor of the Gold Coast for the second time. Killed.

1822 - 1831

A misunderstanding occurs between the Ashanti, the Fanti, and the British which causes the asantehene to take offence. The British prepare the entire coast defensively and the Ashanti mobilise their forces for the First Anglo-Ashanti War. The British march against them but are overwhelmed and the severed head of the governor, Sir Charles MacCarthy, is taken back to Kumasi. The fighting eventually dies down in 1831 and the region is more or less peaceful for the next three decades.

1824

James Chisholm

British governor of the Gold Coast for the second time.

1824 - 1834

Osei Yaw Akoto

1824 - 1825

Edward Purdon

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1825 - 1826

Major-General Sir Charles Turner

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1826

Sir Neil Campbell

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1826 - 1827

Henry John Ricketts

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1827 - 1828

Hugh Lumley

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1828

George Hingston

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1828

Henry John Ricketts

British governor of the Gold Coast for the second time.

1828

The British government allows control of the Gold Coast settlements to revert to the British African Company of Merchants, at which time relations with Asante are still problematic. From the Asante point of view, the British have failed to control the activities of their local coastal allies. Had this been done, Asante may not have found it necessary to attempt to impose a peace on the coastal peoples. MacCarthy's encouragement of coastal opposition to Asante and the subsequent 1824 British military attack has further indicated to Asante authorities that the Europeans, especially the British, do not respect Asante.

1828 - 1830

John Jackson

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1830 - 1836

George Maclean

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1830 - 1831

Having been selected as the governor of Gold Coast by the British African Company of Merchants in 1830, Captain George Maclean immediately arranges a peace treaty with Asante in 1831. He also supervises the coastal people by holding regular court at Cape Coast where he punishes those found guilty of disturbing the peace. No confrontations occur with Asante during his period in office and trade triples.

1834 - 1867

Kwaku Dua I

Died suddenly and unexpectedly.

1836 - 1838

William Topp

British governor of the Committee of Merchants of the Gold Coast.

1838 - 1843

George Maclean

British governor for the second time.

1841 - 1844

Kwaku Dua fights against the Gonja and Dagomba to the north, while to the south matters are largely peaceful. George Maclean's time in office as governor of Gold Coast has been so successful for peaceful relations and trade that a Parliamentary committee has recommended that the British government permanently administer its settlements and negotiate treaties with the coastal chiefs that will define Britain's relations with them. The government does this now, in 1843, reinstating crown government. Commander Henry Worsley Hill is appointed the first 'proper' governor of the Gold Coast.

Kumasi
This image shows Kumasi in 1824, complete with British guard, possibly during a meeting between the asantehene and the governor of Gold Coast (with Sir Charles MacCarthy being the most likely candidate)

1843 - 1845

Henry Worsley Hill

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1845 - 1846

James Lelley

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1846 - 1849

William Winniett

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1849 - 1850

James Coleman Fitzpatrick

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1850

Sir William Winniett

British governor for the second time.

1850 - 1852

On 13 January 1850 the administration of Gold Coast is separated from that of Sierra Leone which, until now, has provided the function of 'head office' to which the Gold Coast governors have had to report. On 30 March 1850, the former Dutch Gold Coast settlements are incorporated into the British territories.

Two years later, in April 1852, growing acceptance of the advantages offered by the British presence leads local chiefs and elders to meet at Cape Coast to consult with the governor on future means of raising revenue. With the governor's approval, the council of chiefs constitutes itself as a legislative assembly, albeit without any formal powers.

1850 - 1851

James Bannerman

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1851 - 1854

Stephen John Hill

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1854 - 1857

Henry Connor

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1857 - 1858

Sir Benjamin Chilley Campbell Pine

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1858 - 1860

Henry Bird

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1860 - 1862

Edward B Andrews

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1862

William A Ross

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1862 - 1865

Richard Pine

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1863

The brief Second Anglo-Ashanti War is triggered when a large Ashanti force crosses the river in pursuit of a fugitive by the name of Kwesi Gyana. The British governor of Gold Coast defends the territory under his command but his request for more troops from home is declined and sickness forces him to withdraw.

Although the relationship between Britain and Asante is one of advantageous mutual trade, some of the southernmost Asante provinces have gradually turned to the British for protection following the ending of the slave trade and the migration of people away from the capital. Now Asante decides that it wants firmer, more direct control of these wayward provinces, but to have the kingdom strong and fully in control of all trade is not in Britain's best interests. The two sides begin to manoeuvre for superiority.

1865

Rokeby Jones

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1865

W E Mockler

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1865 - 1867

Edward Conran

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1867 - 1874

Kofi Karikari

Grandnephew. Dethroned following his defeat.

1867 - 1872

Herbert Taylor Ussher

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1871

British influence over the Gold Coast increases further when Elmina Castle is purchased, this being the last of the Dutch forts along the coast. The Asante, who for years have considered the Dutch at Elmina to be their allies, now lose their last trade outlet to the sea. To prevent this loss and to ensure that their revenue stream continues, an invasion of the coast is planned for the following year.

Elima Castle
Elima Castle was the last of the Dutch forts on Ghana's Gold Coast, and it passed peacefully into British hands in 1871, ending Dutch involvement in the region

1872

John Pope Hennessy

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1872

Charles Spencer Salmon

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1872 - 1873

Robert William Harley

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1873

Robert William Keate

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1873 - 1874

Major General Garnet Joseph Wolseley

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1873 - 1874

As tensions mount between Asante and the British, the Asante take several Europeans hostage. This is the signal for the Third Ashanti War. In February 1874, Under Wolseley's command British troops march into Kumasi, the first foreign troops to do so. They burn it to the ground and Asante is forced to accept the loss of its southern provinces. In August 1874, these provinces become part of the aptly-named British Gold Coast colony. The Asante remove Kofi Karikari from the throne following his defeat and replace him with Mensa Bonsu.

1874

James Maxwell

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1874

Charles Lees

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1874 - 1883

Mensa Bonsu

Younger brother. Forced to abdicate and banished.

1874 - 1876

George Cumine Strahan

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1876

Charles Lees

Acting British governor for the second time.

1876 - 1878

Sanford Freeling

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1878 - 1879

Charles Lees

Acting British governor for the third time.

1879 - 1880

Herbert Taylor Ussher

British governor for the second time.

1880 - 1881

William Brandford Griffith

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1880s

Having lost much of its prestige with the comprehensive defeat of 1874, the Asante kingdom is heading towards civil war as other provinces demand more freedom, or simply detach themselves from the confederation to seek closer ties with Gold Coast. King Mensa Bonsu undertakes punitive expeditions seemingly only as part of his own pursuit of gold and women, and two attempts to dethrone him are made (1877 and 1880), with the the third being successful in 1883. The Asante Civil War follows almost immediately and lasts for five years.

1881 - 1884

Sir Samuel Rowe

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1884

Kwaku Dua II

Died following a short illness. Interregnum followed until 1888.

1884 - 1885

W A G Young

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1885 - 1895

William Brandford Griffith

British governor for the second time (first time acting).

1888

The Asante empire has been managed since 1884 by an interim council until 1887 and then by a regent. Now the various factions in the Asante Civil War agree to a peaceful settlement which sees a new asantehene ascend the throne, the sixteen year-old Prempeh I (originally known as Prince Kwaku Dua III prior to becoming king).

1888 - 1896

Agyeman Prempeh I

Acceded aged 16. Exiled.

1895 - 1897

William Edward Maxwell

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1895 - 1896

With fighting against Gold Coast continuing to break out, Britain decides that Asante should become part of the British protectorate. King Prempeh refuses to accede of course, so another British expedition reaches Kumasi after a hard-fought campaign, this time under Colonel Sir Francis Scott. The Fourth Ashanti War sees Prempeh forced to accept exile, along with his immediate family and some close advisors. They are given passage to Sierra Leone where they remain for three years before being moved to the Seychelles. The removal of the asantehene stops Asante's resurgence dead in its tracks.

The position of rulers is now reversed, with the Asante kings being shown with a shaded background and the British governors being shown as normal. Protection is now extended by the British to the Northern Territories whose trade with the coast had formerly been controlled by Asante. This is prompted primarily by the need to forestall the French and Germans, who have been making rapid advances in the surrounding areas.

1896 - 1931

Agyeman Prempeh I

Asantehene of Asante in exile.

1897 - 1900

Frederick Mitchell Hodgson

British governor of the Gold Coast (acting until May 1898).

1900

W Low

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1900 - 1904

Sir Matthew Nathan

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1902

Asante is forcibly incorporated into the British Gold Coast crown colony (it having gained this status on 26 September 1901), along with the Northern Territories, which had not belonged to the kingdom itself. Having already amicably demarcated the boundaries between the Northern Territories and the surrounding French and German colonies (in 1898 and 1899), the Northern Territories are now proclaimed a British protectorate. Save for the later addition of British Togoland, this creates borders for the colony that are essentially those of modern Ghana.

Prempeh I
Asantehene Prempeh I is shown in this photograph having arrived in the Seychelles, having been transferred there from Sierra Leone during his exile of 1896-1925

1904

Herbert Bryan

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1904 - 1910

John Pickersgill Rodger

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1910

Herbert Bryan

Acting British governor for the second time.

1910 - 1912

James Jamieson Thorburn

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1912

Herbert Bryan

Acting British governor for the third time.

1912 - 1919

Sir Hugh Charles Clifford

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1919

Alexander Ransford Slater

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1919 - 1927

Frederick Gordon Guggisberg

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1925 - 1927

The first legislative council elections take place in Gold Coast, and King Prempeh is allowed to return to his homeland. Provincial councils of chiefs are established in all three of the colony's territories, partly to give the various native chiefs a colony-wide function. This move is followed in 1927 by the promulgation of the 'Native Administration Ordinance', which replaces an 1883 arrangement that had placed chiefs in the Gold Coast colony under British supervision. The purpose is to clarify and to regulate the powers and areas of jurisdiction of chiefs and councils.

1927

Sir James Crawford Maxwell

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1927

John Maxwell

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1927 - 1932

Sir Alexander Ransford Slater

British governor for the second time (the first time acting).

1931 - 1970

Osei Tutu Agyeman Prempeh II

Nephew of Prempeh I. Asantehene of Asante.

1932

Geoffrey Northcote

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1932 - 1934

Sir Shenton Thomas

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1934

Geoffrey Northcote

Acting British governor for the second time.

1934 - 1941

Sir Arnold Weinholt Hodson

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1935

The Native Authorities Ordinance combines the central colonial government and the local authorities into a single governing system. New native authorities, appointed by the governor, are given wide powers of local government under the supervision of the central government's provincial commissioners, who provide assurance that their policies will be those of the central government.

1941 - 1942

George Ernest London

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1942 - 1947

Sir Alan Cuthbert Maxwell Burns

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1948 - 1949

Sir Gerald Hallen Creasy

British governor of the Gold Coast.

1949

Sir Robert Scott

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1949

Thorleif Rattray Orde Mangin

Acting British governor of the Gold Coast.

1949

Sir Robert Scott

British governor for the second time (the first time acting).

1949 - 1957

Sir Charles Noble Arden-Clarke

British governor. Became first post-colonial governor-general.

1956 - 1957

The British half of Togoland, a thin strip of territory running the length of the Gold Coast's eastern border along and above Lake Volta, elects to join Gold Coast via a plebiscite which is pushed by the United Nations in 1956. The following year modern Ghana is formed from the merger of these two colonial possessions - Gold Coast and British Togoland.

Modern Ghana
AD 1957 - Present Day

Known formally as the republic of Ghana, the modern state is located on the southern coastline of Western Africa, which is known as the Gulf of Guinea. It has its capital at Accra, which is also its largest city, and operates as a unitary presidential constitutional democracy. It is bordered by Togo to the east, Burkina Faso to the north, and Ivory Coast to the west.

Modern Ghana was formed from the merger of two colonial possessions - the Gold Coast and British Togoland. The Gold Coast was formed in 1874 after Britain and the kingdom of Asante fought a brief war to see who would be master in the region. Britain won, and Asante's southern provinces were removed from it to become the Gold Coast. British Togoland was formed in 1916 by splitting occupied German Togoland into French and British divisions. The French half eventually became Togo, The British half, a thin strip of territory running the length of the Gold Coast's eastern border along and above Lake Volta, elected to join Gold Coast and form Ghana via a plebiscite which was pushed by the United Nations in 1956.

Thanks to the 1956 plebiscite, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African nation to gain independence. A presidential democracy was established, initially led by one of the main activists against colonial rule, Kwame Nkrumah. Despite years of military coups and rule, today it is one of Africa's most advanced sub-Saharan states, offering a remarkably stable and peaceful life for its twenty-seven million-or-so inhabitants (in 2014). It also has some of Africa's largest reserves of gas and oil, and is a major diamond and cocoa producer, all of which contribute to its comparative wealth.

The former Asante kings are still elected as king of the Asante themselves, and still weild considerable political power, but they play no part in the nation's politics. Their residence is at Kumasi, the Asante capital which lies near Lake Bosumtwi in south-western Ghana. Successive Asante kings are shown with a shaded background.

(Additional information from the Ghana Statistical Service and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles and Manhyia Palace.)

1957

Sir Charles Noble Arden-Clarke

British governor-general. Former Gold Coast governor since 1949.

1957 - 1960

William Francis Hare

British governor-general.

1960 - 1966

Ghana's 'First Republic' period begins upon the withdrawal of the British governor-general. Kwame Nkrumah, one of the leaders of Ghana's push for independence, takes the reigns of power as the country's first president. In 1964 the country becomes a one-party state.

Kwame Nkrumah at independence
Kwame Nkrumah, first president of an independent Ghana, proclaimes Ghanaian independence at midnight on 6 March 1957

1966 - 1969

Kwame Nkrumah is deposed by a military coup whilst abroad on official duties, perhaps with support from the USA. Chinese and Russian technicians are expelled from the country. The coup is one of many during these years, with rule being handled by various councils.

1969 - 1972

A new constitution facilitates the transfer of power to a civilian government which is led by Kofi Busia. This is Ghana's 'Second Republic' period, which is halted by another unelected change in power when Busia is ousted in a military coup that is led by Colonel Ignatius Acheampong.

1970 - 1999

Opoku Ware II

Nephew of Prempeh II. Asantehene of Asante.

1972 - 1978

Ignatius Acheampong

Military coup leader. Forced to resign. Executed in 1979.

1978 - 1979

Frederick Akuffo

Military general. Deposed and executed.

1979 - 1981

Akuffo is deposed in coup led by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings. He has Acheampong and Akuffo executed. In September of the same year, Rawlings hands over power to an elected president, Hilla Limann. This is Ghana's 'Third Republic' period.

1981

Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings stages his second coup and takes power again, ending the third republic and ousting President Limann after two years of weak government and economic stagnation. Rawlings suspends the constitution and bans political parties, replacing them with conservatist leadership and abolishing subsidies and price controls. Many Ghanaians emigrate to Nigeria during the period, but Nigeria forcibly returns many of them in 1983. Slowly the country begins to recover.

1981 - 1992

Jerry Rawlings

Seized power for a second time and retained it.

1992 - Present

In April a constitution allowing for a multi-party system is approved in a referendum, ushering in a more permanent period of democracy. This is Ghana's 'Fourth Republic' period. After overseeing this process, Rawlings is elected president, twice, serving until 2000. The country is a secure and stable democracy by now, which sees free and fair elections on a regular basis.

Jerry Rawlings
Ghanaian leader for thirty-four years, Jerry Rawlings, led two coups to establish an improved level of democracy, albeit retaining power himself for a large period of time after the second coup

1994 - 1995

Land disputes in the north erupt into ethnic violence. Ethnic clashes between the Konkomba and the Nanumba have been taking place over land ownership, but the bloodshed now results in the deaths of a thousand people and the displacement of a further 150,000.

1999 - Present

Osei Tutu II

Formerly Prince Nana Dua. Asantehene of Asante.

2001

This year is a troubled one for Ghana. In February, petrol prices rise by 60% following the government's decision to remove fuel subsidies. In April the country accepts debt relief under a scheme designed by the World Bank and the IMF. In May, a national day of mourning is proclaimed after a football stadium stampede leaves 126 people dead. An inquiry blames the police for overreacting to crowd trouble. In June, the government scraps a public holiday that celebrates Rawling's military coup in an effort to wipe out the legacy of his rule. Finally, in June floods hit Accra, causing ten deaths and forcing 100,000 to flee their homes.

2002 - 2004

A state of emergency is declared in the north in April after a tribal chief and more than thirty others are killed in clan violence. The state of emergency is lifted in August 2004.

2007

Ghana experiences mixed fortunes in 2007 but with the promise of better times to come. In June a major offshore oil discovery is announced. President Kufuor states that the oil will turn Ghana into an 'African tiger', a reference to the rapidly-growing Far Eastern economies of the early part of the twenty-first century. In September, Ghana suffers its worst floods for more than thirty years, causing widespread devastation and destroying much of the annual harvest.