A Very Brief History of Ghana
Ghana is a republic in West Africa. There are dozens of tribes in Ghana, and the institution of chieftaincy is guaranteed by the constitution. Although chiefs are not permitted to participate in politics, they play an important role in Ghanaian society. The National House of Chiefs has authority over traditional laws and customs, and chiefs have a great deal of influence in the community and government.
The ancient empire of Ghana was located in the western Sudan, at least 500 miles from modern Ghana. It included parts of modern Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal. The empire arose around the 3rd century B.C. and flourished for more than a thousand years. Ghana was an important center of trade, and its wealth was so great that Arabs called it "the land of gold" and its ruler "lord of the gold."
The modern Republic of Ghana is located on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. Today's Ghanaians seem to be descendants of immigrants from different parts of Africa, including the ancient empire of Ghana. Exactly when these migrant tribes settled the area is not known.
After European traders arrived in the 15th century, the area came to be known as the Gold Coast because its residents traded gold for European goods. Various kingdoms and empires dominated Ghana during this time, including the Akwamu empire and the Asante (or Ashanti) empire. The African rulers did not permit Europeans to settle inland, but did allow them to build castles and forts on leased land along the coast to protect their trading interests.
Starting in the late 19th century, Europeans conquered and colonized most of Africa. Modern-day Ghana is comprised of Britain's Gold Coast colony and the British part of Togoland, a German protectorate that eventually fell under the control of Britain and France.
Ghana became independent in 1957. Its prime minister (and later first president), Kwame Nkrumah, named the new country after the great ancient empire of Ghana. "We take pride in the name of Ghana," he said, "not out of romanticism, but as an inspiration for the future."
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King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman. Written by an American secretary who suddenly found herself king of an impoverished fishing village in Ghana.
Historical Dictionary of Ghana by David Owusu-Ansah and Daniel Miles McFarland. Spans pre-colonial times through 1993.
Kwame Nkrumah: The Father of African Nationalism by David Birmingham. Biography of Ghana's first president.
Nkrumah & the Chiefs: The Politics of Chieftaincy in Ghana, 1951-1960 by Steven J. Salm and Toyin Falola.
Cultures and Customs in Ghana by Richard Rathbone. Reviews Ghana's history, religion, art and architecture, food and dress, social customs.
Speaking for the Chief: Okyeame and the Politics of Akan Royal Oratory by Kwesi Yankah. The okyeame is an important counselor who has authority to speak for the king.
"The History of Ashanti Kings and the Whole Country Itself" and Other Writings by Agyeman Prempeh I. This history of the kingdom of Asante was written by an Ashanti king in English in the 20th century.
State and Society in Pre-Colonial Asante by T. C. McCaskie.
Fall of the Asante Empire by Robert B. Edgerton. About the 100-year war for Africa's Gold Coast. From Alibris.
Etuo Ato Bare: Yaa Asantewaa and the Asante-British War of 1900-1 by Albert Adu A. Boahen. Yaa Asantewaa, an Asante queen mother, led a war against the British.
Forests of Gold by Ivor Wilks. A collection of essays on the Akan peoples of Ghana, particularly the most powerful of all their kingdoms: Asante.
Chiefs Know Their Boundaries: Essays on Property, Power, and the Past in Asante, 1896-1996 by Sara S. Berry. Essays on the ways people have made and exercised claims on land in Asante, Ghana.
The Making of an African King by Anthony Ephirim-Donkor is about royal succession among the Effutu people of Ghana.
El Dorado in West Africa by Raymond E. Dumett. The gold-mining frontier, African labor, and colonial capitalism in the Gold Coast, 1875-1900.
An Archaeology of Elmina: Africans and Europeans on the Gold Coast, 1400-1900 by Christopher R. Decorse. Describes West African life in the context of European expansion and cultural change. Available from Alibris.
A History of the Gold Coast by W. E. F. Ward. From Alibris.
An African Eldorado: Ghana From Gold Coast to Independence by John Carmichael. First published in 1993. Out of print, but sometimes available from Alibris.
Bradt Ghana by Philip Briggs. Ghana has much to offer the visitor: tropical beaches, waterfalls, the game-rich savannah of Mole National Park, the coastal forts. This guide includes history and wildlife sections, accommodation and restaurant recommendations, and other practical information.
Fante by Chika Okeke and George Bond. About the Fanti people. For ages 9 to 12.