Ghana History Proves that Far From Being Limited to Sparkling Baubles, the Country is Rich with Historical Jewels as Well
Ghana history is a subject often overlooked in school and even university textbooks. The great nation, from its fascinating and still-elusive ancient past through its many struggles and triumphs to become the land it is today, can tell us much about the history of West Africa itself, as well as the histories of those European powers with which it came into contact. Nevertheless, it is rare that Ghana is known or understood beyond its name.
Any quick look at a map of the Northwestern coasts of Africa will point a curious researcher to Ghana’s position between the Ivory Coast and Togo, with Burkina Faso to the North and the expansive waters of the Gulf of Guinea to the South. This land is the proud and much-loved property of the Ghana people.The ‘history of Ghana’ begins with a land roughly five hundred miles away, to the Northwest of the present territory, deep in the legendary Horn of Africa.
The history of ancient Ghana is rich in tribal battles and conflicts, along with cultural and practical highlights. The inhabitants of the original territories of Ghana practiced an early form of pastoralism for sustenance, contributing to the region’s notoriety as the “Land of Herds.” Though the exact causes for the fall of the ancient Ghana empire are still widely speculated, it is likely that the empire dissolved in the eleventh century BCE, succumbing to the Almoravids.
Through the course of Ghana history, the transition between the traditional lands of Ghana and the region we recognize today took place over hundreds of years, and the shaping of the modern country is a process still in progress. Like many nations in the course of African history, Ghana had to fight and realize many periods of change to achieve its modern sophistication and splendor.
There are a great many places on Earth where gold or other valuables served as the impetus for development, and the modern-day territory of Ghana is included. In one of the darker chapters of Ghana history, in the fifteenth century, Portuguese explorers discovered the region’s wealth of gold, and reported their findings in Europe, creating a frenzy of interest and vying for control that would last until the country’s eventual independence. Wresting power from the Portuguese in the late sixteenth century, the Dutch enjoyed control of the area for several years.
England, Denmark, and Sweden also exhibited interest in the area in the time leading up to its colonization. Ghana history is highlighted by Elmina Castle, which was built by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century and passed to the Dutch and later the British, all the while serving as a hub for the rich stores of gold, ivory, and slaves available in the country’s interior.
Slavery in Ghana became a chief point of revenue for European powers, and slave forts emerged along the coast. Drawing merchants and money-hungry governments alike, the country previously known as the Gold Coast, suffered through considerable exploitation.
By the mid nineteenth century, England was the only European power still present in Ghana. As a result, the country became a British protectorate, effectively bringing about a period of colonialism. During this period of Ghana history, the country adopted many paths toward social and economic infrastructure, though the people themselves yearned for freedom from the rule of European powers.
The country achieved its independence in 1957, as declared by the current leader Kwame Nkrumah, who would go on to lead the course of Ghana history for over a decade. The result of a political refinement and understanding and a national unity unseen elsewhere in Africa at the time, Ghana’s independence was an important step forward for other colonized nations.
Nkrumah lead the country through a series of challenges both political and economic, and eventually gave over power to Kofi A. Busia, who in turn would be succeeded by ambitious elected officials. During these years of political and social development, Ghana history focused on integrating a parliamentary system and other measures of modern political representation.
Since gaining independence, Ghana has seen several leaders and political parties, and has been on a clear path towards establishing a fully functional democracy. From the tribal and mysterious roots of the nation’s ancient past through the difficult trials of its subjugation to the might of Europe, Ghana history paints the picture of a land — and a people — ever determined to lead, prevail, and prosper.