By the ninth century, Ghana had established itself as one of the major kingdoms of Bilad el-Sudan.
In the Middle Ages and the Age of Discovery, Ghana was populated by a number of old mainly Akan kingdoms in the southern and central regions. The Ashanti Empire, the Akwamu, the Bonoman, the Denkyira, and the Mankessim Kingdom were all part of this.
The bulk of current Ghana’s geographical territory remained essentially unused and deserted by people until the 11th century. Despite many population migrations in what is now Ghana, West Africa, the Akans were securely established by the 5th century BC. By the early 11th century, the Akans had established themselves in the Akan state of Bonoman, which is now known as the Brong-Ahafo Region.
Akans came from what is thought to have been the Bonoman region in the 13th century to establish numerous Akan kingdoms in Ghana, based mostly on gold trade. Bonoman (Brong-Ahafo Region), Ashanti (Ashanti Region), Denkyira (Central Region), Mankessim Kingdom (Western Region), and Akwamu Eastern Region were among the states involved. The southern portion of Ghana was included into the Kingdom of Ashanti in the 19th century, making it one of the most powerful kingdoms in Sub-Saharan Africa prior to colonization.
A map from 1850 depicting the Akan Kingdom of Ashanti in West Africa’s Guinea region and neighboring areas.
The administration of the Kingdom of Ashanti began as a loose network, then evolved into a centralised kingdom with a sophisticated, highly specialized bureaucracy centered in Kumasi, the capital city. Prior to encounter with Europeans, the Akan Ashanti people had a sophisticated economy based mostly on gold and gold bar goods, which they traded with African nations.
The Mole-Dagbani nations were the first documented kingdoms to form in contemporary Ghana. The Mole-Dagombas arrived on horseback from what is now Burkina Faso, led by Naa Gbewaa. They quickly attacked and seized the territories of the indigenous people governed by the Tendamba (land god priests), installed themselves as rulers over them, and made Gambaga their capital, thanks to their superior weaponry and the existence of a central government. Naa Gbewaa’s death sparked civil war among his offspring, with some forming independent states such as Dagbon, Mamprugu, Mossi, Nanumba, and Wala.
European contact (15th century)
Following interaction with the Portuguese in the 15th century, Akan commerce with European nations started. Early European interaction with the Portuguese, who arrived in the Gold Coast area in the 15th century to trade and later created the Portuguese Gold Coast (Costa do Ouro), was centered on the abundant gold supply. The Portuguese established a trade post at Anomansah (perpetual drink) on the seashore, which they renamed Elmina.
King John II of Portugal commissioned Diogo d’Azambuja to construct Elmina Castle in 1481, and it was finished in three years. By 1598, the Dutch had joined the Portuguese in the gold trade, forming the Dutch Gold Coast (Nederlandse Bezittingen ter Kuste van Guinea) and fortifying Komenda and Kormantsi. The Dutch took Olnini Castle from the Portuguese in 1617, and Axim in 1642. (Fort St Anthony).
By the mid-seventeenth century, other European merchants had engaged in gold trafficking, most notably the Swedish, who established the Swedish Gold Coast (Svenska Guldkusten), and Denmark-Norway, who established the Danish Gold Coast (Danske Guldkyst or Dansk Guinea). The region was given the name Costa do Ouro (Gold Coast) by Portuguese traders who were fascinated by the area’s gold riches.
The Portuguese, Swedish, Dano-Norwegians, Dutch, and German merchants constructed more than thirty forts and castles, creating the German Gold Coast (Brandenburger Gold Coast or Groß Friedrichsburg). In 1874, the United Kingdom took sovereignty of certain sections of the nation, designating these regions as the British Gold Coast. The Akan Kingdom of Ashanti beat the British a few times in the Anglo-Ashanti wars against the United Kingdom, but ultimately lost with the War of the Golden Stool in the early 1900s.
Following the Gold Coast parliamentary election of 1946, The Big Six’s newly formed United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) advocated for “self-government in the shortest feasible period.” Dr.h.c. Kwame Nkrumah was Ghana’s first Prime Minister and President, founding the Convention People’s Party (CPP) with the slogan “self-government now.”
Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first Prime Minister and President, gained a majority in the Gold Coast legislative election of 1951 for the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly, and was named head of the Gold Coast’s government business in 1952. On March 6, 1957, the Gold Coast area proclaimed independence from the United Kingdom, becoming the country of Ghana.
The beginning of Ghana’s history on March 6, 1957, and Kwame Nkrumah’s creation of Ghanaian Republicanism, as well as the 1960 Ghanaian presidential election.
As the first Prime Minister of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah declared Ghana’s independence and autonomy on March 6, 1957 at 12 a.m., and as the first President of Ghana, Nkrumah declared Ghana a republic on July 1, 1960, following the Ghanaian constitutional referendum of 1960 and the Ghanaian presidential election of 1960.
When the Gold Coast was renamed Ghana in 1957, the new flag, consisting of the colors red, gold, green, and a black star, was adopted. The crimson symbolizes the blood poured in the struggle for freedom, the gold represents Ghana’s vast mineral riches, the green represents the country’s lush grasslands, and the black star represents the Ghanaian people and African liberation.
Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first Prime Minister and later President, was the first African head of state to advocate Pan-Africanism, a concept he encountered while studying at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, at a period when Marcus Garvey’s “Back to Africa Movement” was gaining popularity. In the creation of 1960s Ghana, Nkrumah combined the ideas of Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Jr., and naturalized Ghanaian academic W. E. B. Du Bois.
Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, as he was called, was a key figure in the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement and the establishment of the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute to educate his communist and socialist ideas. Ghanaians honored his accomplishments at his centennial birthday celebrations, and the day was declared a public holiday in Ghana (Founder’s Day).
Operation Cold Chop and aftermath
Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and his administration were toppled by a GAF military operation dubbed “Operation Cold Chop” coup on February 24, 1966, when Nkrumah was overseas with Zhou Enlai in the People’s Republic of China for a futile trip to Hanoi, Vietnam, to help resolve the Vietnam War. Lt. General Joseph A. Ankrah founded and chairs the National Liberation Council (N.L.C.).
From 1966 through 1981, a succession of military and civilian administrations alternated until Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) took control in 1981. As a consequence of these modifications, Ghana’s constitution was suspended in 1981, and political parties were outlawed. Soon after, the economy experienced a severe downturn, but Kwame Nkrumah negotiated a structural adjustment plan that changed many previous economic practices, and the economy quickly rebounded from the mid–2000s. In the 1992 Ghanaian presidential election, a new constitution was published, reinstating multi-party politics; Rawlings was elected president of Ghana at the time, and again in the 1996 Ghanaian general election.
After winning the 2000 Ghanaian elections, John Agyekum Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) was sworn in as president of Ghana on January 7, 2001, and was re-elected in the 2004 Ghanaian elections, thus serving two terms as president of Ghana and marking the first time power was transferred from one leg to the other under the fourth republic of Ghana.
Following the Ghanaian presidential election of 2008, Kufuor was succeeded as president of the Republic of Ghana by John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), who was inaugurated as the third president of the fourth republic of Ghana and eleventh president of Ghana on 7 January 2009, before being succeeded as president of Ghana by then vice-president John Atta Mills.
Following the 2012 Ghanaian presidential election, John Dramani Mahama was elected supreme commander-in-chief, and he was sworn in as the 4th President of the Fourth Republic of Ghana and the 12th President of Ghana on January 7, 2013, for a four-year term as supreme commander-in-chief and president of Ghana until January 7, 2017, securing Ghana’s status as a stable decentralized state.