Ghana was already recognized as one of the great kingdoms in Bilad el-Sudan by the ninth century.
Ghana was inhabited in the Middle Ages and the Age of Discovery by a number of ancient predominantly Akan kingdoms in the Southern and Central territories. This included the Ashanti Empire, the Akwamu, the Bonoman, the Denkyira, and the Mankessim Kingdom.
Although the area of present-day Ghana in West Africa has experienced many population movements, the Akans were firmly settled by the 5th century BC. By the early 11th century, the Akans were firmly established in the Akan state called Bonoman, for which the Brong-Ahafo Region is named.
From the 13th century, Akans emerged from what is believed to have been the Bonoman area, to create several Akan states of Ghana, mainly based on gold trading. These states included Bonoman (Brong-Ahafo Region), Ashanti (Ashanti Region), Denkyira (Central region), Mankessim Kingdom (Western region), and Akwamu Eastern region. By the 19th century, the territory of the southern part of Ghana was included in the Kingdom of Ashanti, one of the most influential states in sub-saharan Africa prior to the onset of colonialism.
The Kingdom of Ashanti government operated first as a loose network, and eventually as a centralised kingdom with an advanced, highly specialised bureaucracy centred in the capital city of Kumasi. Prior to Akan contact with Europeans, the Akan people created an advanced economy based on principally gold and gold bar commodities then traded with the states of Africa.
The earliest known kingdoms to emerge in modern Ghana were the Mole-Dagbani states. The Mole-Dagomba came on horseback from present-day Burkina Faso under a single leader, Naa Gbewaa. With their advanced weapons and based on a central authority, they easily invaded and occupied the lands of the local people ruled by the Tendamba (land god priests), established themselves as the rulers over the locals, and made Gambaga their capital. The death of Naa Gbewaa caused civil war among his children, some of whom broke off and founded separate states including Dagbon, Mamprugu, Mossi, Nanumba and Wala.
European contact (15th century)
Main articles: Gold Coast (region), Portuguese Gold Coast, Dutch Gold Coast, Dutch Slave Coast, Swedish Gold Coast, Danish Gold Coast, Brandenburger Gold Coast, and Gold Coast (British colony)
Akan trade with European states began after contact with Portuguese in the 15th century. Early European contact by the Portuguese people, who came to the Gold Coast region in the 15th century to trade and then established the Portuguese Gold Coast (Costa do Ouro), focused on the extensive availability of gold. The Portuguese built a trading lodge at a coastal settlement called Anomansah (the perpetual drink) which they renamed São Jorge da Mina.
In 1481, King John II of Portugal commissioned Diogo d’Azambuja to build the Elmina Castle, which was completed in three years. By 1598, the Dutch had joined the Portuguese in the gold trade, establishing the Dutch Gold Coast (Nederlandse Bezittingen ter Kuste van Guinea) and building forts at Fort Komenda and Kormantsi. In 1617, the Dutch captured the Olnini Castle from the Portuguese, and Axim in 1642 (Fort St Anthony).
Other European traders had joined in gold trading by the mid-17th century, most notably the Swedes, establishing the Swedish Gold Coast (Svenska Guldkusten), and Denmark-Norway, establishing the Danish Gold Coast (Danske Guldkyst or Dansk Guinea). Portuguese merchants, impressed with the gold resources in the area, named it Costa do Ouro or Gold Coast. Also beginning in the 17th century — in addition to the gold trade — Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French traders also participated in the Atlantic slave trade in this area.
The first Anglo-Ashanti war, 1823–31
More than thirty forts and castles were built by the Portuguese, Swedish, Dano-Norwegians, Dutch and German merchants; the latter Germans establishing the German Gold Coast (Brandenburger Gold Coast or Groß Friedrichsburg). In 1874 Great Britain established control over some parts of the country, assigning these areas the status of British Gold Coast. Many military engagements occurred between the British colonial powers and the various Akan nation-states. The Akan Kingdom of Ashanti defeated the British a few times in the 100-year-long Anglo-Ashanti wars but eventually lost with the War of the Golden Stool in the early 1900s.
Transition to independence
See also: Dominion of Ghana
A postage stamp of Gold Coast overprinted for Ghanaian independence in 1957
File:Ghana (1957-03-07 A New Nation).ogvPlay media
Celebrations marking Ghana’s independence on 6 March 1957
In 1947, the newly formed United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) led by “The Big Six” called for “self-government within the shortest possible time” following the Gold Coast legislative election, 1946. Kwame Nkrumah was the first Prime Minister of Ghana and the first President of Ghana and formed the Convention People’s Party (CPP) with the motto “self-government now”.
Nkrumah won a majority in the Gold Coast legislative election, 1951 for the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly in 1952. Nkrumah was appointed leader of the Gold Coast’s government business. The Gold Coast region declared independence from the United Kingdom on 6 March 1957 and established the nation of Ghana.
On 6 March 1957 at 12 am. Nkrumah declared Ghana’s establishment and autonomy. On 1 July 1960, following the Ghanaian constitutional referendum, 1960 and Ghanaian presidential election, 1960 Nkrumah declared Ghana as a republic as the first President of Ghana. 6 March is the nation’s Independence Day and 1 July is now celebrated as Republic Day.
At the time of independence Nkrumah declared, “My first objective is to abolish from Ghana poverty, ignorance, and disease. We shall measure our progress by the improvement in the health of our people; by the number of children in school, and by the quality of their education; by the availability of water and electricity in our towns and villages; and by the happiness which our people take in being able to manage their own affairs. The welfare of our people is our chief pride, and it is by this that the government will ask to be judged.”. In 1966, a group of military officers overthrew Nkrumah in a coup d’état and placed Ghana under the authority of the National Liberation Council.