Medieval Ghana (4th – 13th Century): The Republic of Ghana is named after the medieval Ghana Empire of West Africa. The actual name of the Empire was Wagadugu. Ghana was the title of the kings who ruled the kingdom. It was controlled by Sundiata in 1240 AD, and absorbed into the larger Mali Empire. (Mali Empire reached its peak of success under Mansa Musa around 1307.)
Geographically, the old Ghana is 500 miles north of the present Ghana, and occupied the area between Rivers Senegal and Niger.
Some inhabitants of present Ghana had ancestors linked with the medieval Ghana. This can be traced down to the Mande and Voltaic peoeple of Northern Ghana–Mamprussi, Dagomba and the Gonja.
Anecdotal evidence connected the Akans to this great Empire. The evidence lies in names like Danso shared by the Akans of present Ghana and Mandikas of Senegal/Gambia who have strong links with the Empire.
Gold Coast & European Exploration: Before March 1957 Ghana was called the Gold Coast. The Portuguese who came to Ghana in the 15th Century found so much gold between the rivers Ankobra and the Volta that they named the place Mina – meaning Mine. The Gold Coast was later adopted to by the English colonisers. Similarly, the French, equally impressed by the trinkets worn by the coastal people, named The Ivory Coast, Cote d’Ivoire.
In 1482, the Portuguese built a castle in Elmina. Their aim was to trade in gold, ivory and slaves. In 1481 King John II of Portugal sent Diego d’Azambuja to build this castle.
In 1598 the Dutch joined them, and built forts at Komenda and Kormantsil. In 1637 they captured the castle from the Portuguese and that of Axim in 1642 (Fort St Anthony). Other European traders joined in by the mid 18th century. These were the English, Danes and Swedes. The coastline were dotted by forts built by the Dutch, British and the Dane merchants. By the latter part of 19th century the Dutch and the British were the only traders left. And when the Dutch withdrew in 1874, Britain made the Gold Coast a crown colony.
By 1901 the Ashanti and the North were made a protectorate.
Britain and the Gold Coast: The first Britons arrived in the early 19th century as traders in Ghana. But with their close relationship with the coastal people especially the Fantes, the Ashantis became their enemies.
Economic and Social Development (Before 1957): 1874–Gold Mine in Wassa and Asante. Between 1946-1950 gold export rose from 6 million pounds to 9 million pounds.
Political Movements and Nationalism in Ghana (1945 – 1957): The educated Ghanaians had always been in the fore-front of constructive movements. Names that come into mind are –Dr Aggrey, George Ferguson, John Mensah Sarbah. Others like king Ghartey IV of Winneba, Otumfuo Osei Agyeman Prempeh I raised the political consciousness of their subjects. However, movements towards political freedom started soon after WWII.
This happened because suddenly people realised the colonisation was a form of oppression, similar to the oppression they have just fought against. The war veterans had become radical. The myth surrounding the whiteman has been broken. The rulers were considered economic cheats, their arogance had become very offensive. They had the ruling class attitude, and some of the young District Commissioner (DC) treated the old chiefs as if they were their subjects. Local pay was bad. No good rural health or education policy. Up to 1950 the Govt Secondary schools in the country were 2, the rest were built by the missionaries.
There was also the rejection of African culture to some extent. Some external forces also contributed to this feeling. African- Americans such as Marcus Garvey and WE Du Bois raised strong Pan-African conscience.
In 1945 a conference was held in Manchester to promote Pan African ideas. This was attended by Nkrumah of Ghana, Azikwe of Nigeria and Wallace Johnson of Sierra Leone. The India and Pakistani independence catalysed this desire.
Sir Alan Burns constitution of 1946 provided new legislative council that was made of the Governor as the President, 6 government officials, 6 nominated members and 18 elected members.
The executive council was not responsible to the legislative council. They were only in advisory capacity, and the governor did not have to take notice.
These forces made Dr J.B. Danquah to form the United Gold Coast Conversion (UGCC) in 1947 and Nkrumah was invited to be the General Secretary to the party. Other officers were George Grant (Paa Grant), Akuffo Addo, William Ofori Atta, Obetsebi Lamptey, Ako Agyei, and J Tsiboe with the aim of Independence for Ghana and so rejected the Burns constitution.