The Gold Coast was a British colony on the Gulf of Guinea in west Africa that became the independent nation of Ghana in 1957.
The first Europeans to arrive at the coast were the Portuguese in 1471. They encountered a variety of African kingdoms, some of which controlled substantial deposits of gold in the soil. In 1482, the Portuguese built the Castle of Elmina, the first European settlement on the Gold Coast. From here they traded slaves, gold, knives, beads, mirrors, rum and guns. News of the successful trading spread quickly, and eventually British, Dutch, Danish, Prussian and Swedish traders arrived as well. The European traders built several forts along the coastline. The Gold Coast had long been a name for the region used by Europeans because of the large gold resources found in the area. The slave trade was the principal exchange for many years.
The British Gold Coast was formed in 1867 after the British government abolished the African Company of Merchants in 1821 and seized privately held lands along the coast. They also took over the remaining interests of other European countries, purchasing and incorporating the Danish Gold Coast in 1850 and the Dutch Gold Coast, including Fort Elmina, in 1872. Britain steadily expanded its colony through the invasion of local kingdoms as well, particularly the Ashanti and Fante confederacies. The Ashanti people had controlled much of the territory of Ghana before the Europeans arrived and were often in conflict with them. They are the largest ethnic community in Ghana. Four wars, the Anglo-Ashanti Wars, were fought between the Ashanti (Asante) and the British, who were sometimes allied with the Fante.
During the First Anglo-Ashanti War (1822–1824), the two groups fought because of a disagreement over an Ashanti chief and slavery. Tensions increased in 1874 during the Second Ashanti War (1873–1874) when the British sacked the Ashanti capital of Kumasi. The Third Ashanti War (1893–1894) occurred because the new Ashanti ruler Asantehene wanted to exercise his new title. From 1895–1896 the British and Ashanti fought in the Fourth and final Ashanti War, where the Ashanti fought for and lost their independence. In 1900 the Ashanti Uprising took place, resulting in the British capture of the city of Kumasi. At the end of this last Ashanti War, the Ashanti people became a British protectorate on 1 January 1902.
By 1901, all of the Gold Coast was a British colony, with its kingdoms and tribes considered a single unit. The British exported a variety of natural resources such as gold, metal ores, diamonds, ivory, pepper, timber, grain and cocoa. The British colonists built railways and the complex transport infrastructure which formed the basis for the transport infrastructure in modern-day Ghana. They also built Western-style hospitals and schools to provide modern amenities to the people of the empire.
By 1945, the native population was demanding more autonomy in the wake of the end of the Second World War and the beginnings of the decolonisation process across the world. By 1956, British Togoland, the Ashanti protectorate, and the Fante protectorate were merged with the Gold Coast to create one colony, which became known as the Gold Coast. In 1957 the colony gained independence under the name of Ghana.