Modern Ghana takes its name from the ancient kingdom of Ghana that flourished, north of the present day state, between the 4th and 11th centuries AD. However, the history of Ghana dates back to the great Sudanic Empires of West Africa, which controlled the trade in gold and salt to and from the trans-Saharan trade routes. Later history brought European slave traders and a period when many European nations left their mark on what became known as the ‘Gold Coast’. Of the 45 forts and castles built by Europeans on the West African coast, 32 were in Ghana and no less than 96 fortifications were built along Ghana’s coast. Many important African resistors to the slave trade, Tacky, Albert Sam, Quamina and Cudjoe for example, had their roots in Ghana. Ghana also had about 60 slave markets, whose defence walls and mud roofing architecture were meant to prevent slave raids. Despite the inhumanity of Europe’s slave trade, great and important empires remained in Ghana and the traditions of the Asante and the Fante continue in the Ghana of today.


Elmina, formerly Edina, took its name from the Portuguese word ‘Al Mina’ meaning ‘the mine’. It was given to this town because of its richness in gold. The town is situated along the Coast of the central region of Ghana, about 12 km west of Cape Coast. Elmina was the first point of contact with Europeans and the Portuguese arrived in 1471, to trade in gold, spices, ivory and other African artefacts. In 1482, the desire for more gold and to spread Christianity, led Portuguese Don Diego D’Azambuja to gather about 200 soldiers, masons, carpenters and other artisans to build St George’s Castle. This was meant to serve as a trading post, which would protect trade and traders from possible attacks by other European states and local people. The castle was taken over by the Dutch in 1637, who kept control for 274 years. The castle was used to ‘store’ slaves, along with ivory and gold, while they waited for slave ships to arrive and collect them. It is estimated that at least one thousand men and women were held in the dungeons at any one time. Elmina is also associated with King Prempeh of Asante who was kept there before being exiled to the Seychelles. The infamous Christopher Columbus apparently used this castle as one of his bases for his exploitative mission to ‘discover’ the so called New World.

Assin Manso

In the Central Region of Ghana lies Assin Manso, with a slave market where slaves were sold and taken to ships. It has a Slave River ‘Nnonkonsuo’ a tributary of River Ochi, where enslaved Africans were allowed to bathe after their journey from the north, before they were ‘sorted‘ according to age and sex, and sold. There is also a cemetery ‘Nnonokosie’ where dead Africans were buried.

Cape Coast Castle

It is believed that the first structure on this site served as a timber trading lodge, built by the Swedes in 1654, on a rock called Tabora. A fort built in stone soon replaced this lodge. It was named Carolousburg in honour of Kind Charles X of Sweden. Carolousburg changed owners several times until 1664 when the English captured it from the Dutch and made it their headquarters. In 1672 the Royal African Company was set up in England, and they transformed it into a Castle to use as their headquarters for penetrating West Africa. In 1768 the entire south of the castle was demolished and replaced by a huge fortified battery with a platform mounted with cannons.

Under this platform is an enormous vaulted slave dungeon. One of them was the ‘condemned cell’ where ‘troublesome slaves’ were kept. The room is dark, without any ventilation as only a small window lets in air and light. In Palaver Hall, some of the most able bodied Africans were auctioned for the highest bid. It is also remembered as the place where the bond of 1844, which formalised the colonial relationship between the then Gold Coast and Britain, was signed. Some of the basic materials used in building the castle such as stones, bricks, laterite, sand, pitch pine and wrought iron are all on display in the castle. After the abolition of the slave trade, the British Crown took possession of the castle and adapted it into a garrison of the British Frontier Force in their many battles against the Asantes who resisted attempts at being colonised by a foreign power. Today the Cape Coast Castle stands as testimony to the age of European exploitation and the subjugation of Africans by Europeans.