See also Europeans: Texts and Sources
ELMINA, EDINA AND THE DUTCH
- Anquandah, J, Castles and Forts of Ghana, Ghana Museums & Monuments Board/Atalante, undated: 2000? ( with fine photographs by Thierry Secretan)
- 59 (of Elmina Castle, quoting Jean Barbot, 1682): This castle has justly become famous for beauty and strength, having no equal on all the coasts of Guinea. Built square with very high walls of dark brown stone so very firm that it may be said to be cannon-proof. On the land side it has two canals always furnished with rain or fresh water sufficient for the use of the garrison and the ships - canals cut in the rock by the Portuguese (by blowing up the rock little by little with gunpowder. The warehouses either for goods or provisions are very largely and stately always well furnished."
- Arhin, Kwame (ed.) The Cape Coast and Elmina Handbook: Past, present and future, Inst. of African Studies, University of Ghana, 1995.
Chapter One CAPE COAST AND ELMINA IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE, Kwame Arhin
SECTION 2 ELMINA
- 7 Early European accounts of the village describe the occupations of the inhabitants as . . . agriculture, cattle rearing and poultry; palmwine tapping; salt making; trading; brokerage between the forts and inland traders. . . Some of the traders were major entrepreneurs who bought slaves purveyed by the Portuguese traders from other parts of West Africa and used them for porterage in the trade in gold and ivory in the forest and forest-savanna fringe areas. . . In the eighteenth century, the expansionist Asante kingdom used Elmina as their main trading centre. . . . The special relations with Elmina began with the Asante capture of the note for "Kostgeld", rent or goodwill money, from Denkyera in 1700-01, and were reflected in the Asante-Dutch alliance which lasted from 1699-1872 . . . To the Asante and other peoples trading at Elmina, the trading centre was both an outlet for their gold, ivory and slaves and a source of foreign items of material culture and techniques that could advance their own technologies.
10 The Dutch paid rents or goodwill money on the Castle land successively to the local authorities, to Denkyera and Asante. . . The Dutch also had recourse to local women, produced children and built human bridges between the stranger and host races. . . they supported their hosts, though only with ammunition, in their wars with their neighbours. . . .In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Dutch cemented their alliance with Asante; not only through payment of "kostgeld," but also through the periodic exchange of presents which enriched Asante material culture. . . the basic indigenous economies of the trading centres were overlaid with occupations relating to the establishment of the European trading-fort. The basic elements of the indigenous economy were cultivation, fishing and salt-making. In due course traders from the north and overseas did business in the market-place and at the houses in the village, and cultivation and fishing advanced beyond subsistence: Cape Coast and Elmina were among the earliest centres of money economy in the territories now embraced by modern Ghana.
11 . . . The traditional socio-political organization of Elmina was strongly modified by its frontier and trading status. The basis structure was one of matrilineage localized in wards, whose heads, united in a constituted council, and led by one of them, acted as the supreme authority of the town and its subordinate or satellite villages. Headship of the Council was custom-determined in favour of the male descendants of the founder of the town who, among the Akan, are known as the aristocrats/royals, adehyee. Headships of wards and villages are similarly determined, while such offices as those of spokesmen, akyeame, are vested in certain matrilineages.
- Hyland, A. D. C.. Chapter Two THE CASTLES OF ELMINA AND CAPE COAST, AND THEIR INFLUENCE ON THE ARCHITECTURAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE TWO TOWNS
- 13 St. Georges Castle, Elmina
This is the oldest surviving European building in the tropics . . . the castle which the Portuguese began to build in 1482 was substantially complete, to its original plan, by 1486 . . . several years before Columbus crossed the Atlantic . . . or Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and opened up the sea route to India.
14 . . . In 1637, the Dutch made their final attack on Elmina. . . Finally on the August 28 or 29, 1637, the Portuguese surrendered and handed over the castle to the Dutch, who were to remain masters of Elmina for over 200 years. . . As soon as the Dutch were established in Elmina, they set about improving the defences . . . and . . . repairing the considerable damage caused by the bombardment.
15 . . . the hill of St. Jago was fortified . . . Named Coenraadsburg by the Dutch, the Fort was completed by 1666 . . .
16 Elmina was the first town on the Gold Coast of any architectural pretension; still situated on the narrow peninsula between the Benya Lagoon and the sea, the older part of the town, characterized by its steeply pitched thatched roof houses, . . remained there until it was razed to the ground by the British in 1873. During the eighteenth century, the town was still very dependent on the Castle . . . In the early years of the century . . . the main block fronting the Great Court was remodelled; and later in the century, the Governor's dwelling in the south tower was extended by building a wing above the main entrance of the Castle.
17 (A) map of 1799 shows Elmina as it was during the early years of Governor Bartels' administration, at which time Elmina reached the apogee of its prestige and prosperity. Carl Ludwig Bartels, who was governor from 1789-1804, had been in Dutch government service in Elmina for many years previously, and had built a substantial house in the old town, close to the river, for his wife and family in 1786.
- Astley, Thomas (ed) A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels Vol II London 1745
- pl 59 Views of Dixcove and English and Dutch Forts at Sakkundi. Forts are solid in appearance with battered coursed walls. All on hills. Slopes are cultivated with plots laid out neatly in lines. Palm trees mark corners at Sekondi. At Dixcove, small rectangular huts along the coast, pitched roofs, one door, no windows. All castles have canons facing (at least) out to sea and a large flag above.
398 Captain Thomas Phillips 1693. Fort of Mina. They took a walk before dinner about the Castle which is old and built upon a rock after the Portuguese fashion, from whom the Dutch plundered it. It had four flankers and about 18 guns in all, those towards the sea good and long and some of them brass; the walls are pretty high and the Gate strong which faces the continent. In the midst of the fort is their warehouse, kitchen and lodgings of the soldiers, over which there are three or four small rooms for the Factors. A great part of the roof and wall of that wherein they dined was fallen down. For dinner they had some muscovy duck, kid, fish and store of other provision. What Phillips liked best was a Yam pudding which eat very gratefully, managed by the French Doctor, with sugar and orange juice. They had plenty of Punch and Stummed Rhenish wine; but a drink called Kokoro, looking like thin whey, and is a sort of palm wine, he preferred to any other. He thought it drank like mead or rather Verdy, or white Florence wine, as they call it at Livorno. Dinner being over and the King's health, the African Company's and theirs being drank, each with a salvo of screw? guns, they were invited to take a walk, where the Negroes used to dance, about a quarter of a mile from the fort under two or three very large Cotton trees, of which their canoes are made. Seats and liquor being brought, soon after came the musick, being three black fellows with the like number of hollow elephant teeth, through which they made a hideous bellowing and were accompanied by another who beat a hollow piece of brass with a stick. Then came Mr. Rawlisson (Dutch factor from Axim) the factor's wife, a pretty young Mulatto, with a rich silk cloth about her middle and a silk cap upon her head, flowered with gold and silver, under which her hair was combed out at length. For the mulattos covet to wear it so in imitation of the whites, never curling it up or letting it friz as the blacks do. She was attended by the Second's and Doctor's wives, young blacks about thirteen. After the English had saluted them they went to dance by turns, in a ridiculous manner, making antic gestures with their arms, shoulders and heads, their feet having the least share in the action. They began moderately, but quickened their motions by degrees, till at the latter end they appeared perfecftly furious and distracted. . . The Town is on the East side, containing about an hundred houses or huts, straight along the banks of a river which empties itself into the sea near the castle, at the mouth of which is a landing place. The Author saw above an hundred men and women with pails on the side of the river, who they told him were washing of sand and dirt in search of gold dust.
399 Sukkandi: went ashore at the English castle where found Mr. Johnson in his bed raving mad, through resentment of an affront put on him by one Van Hukeline, the Copeman or merchant of the Mina Castle. . . One Taguba, a noted Negro wench in Cape Coast town, gotten with child by some of the soldiers of the castle, was brought to bed of a mulatto girl, who growing about eleven years old, this Johnson, then a factor at Cape Coast, had a great fancy for her and purposed to take her for his wife (as they take wives in Guinea. . . note, That is, during Pleasure) and being about that time removed to be chief Factor at Sekondi, in order to make sure of the girl, he took her there to live with him, till she was of age fit for conjugal embraces, using her with much tenderness and taking great satisfaction in her company for two or three years. But when she was grown up, being a pretty girl, Vanhukeline, by bribes and presents corrupted her mother Taguba. . . girl kidnapped. Johnson later murdered on orders of Vanhukeline (who soon cracked the nut Johnson had been so long cooking to his own tooth). When Phillips dined with the Dutch General at the Mina, he saw her there, being brought to dance before them, very fine, bearing the title Madam Vanhukeline. This and some other old differences with the Dutchman, had quite turned his brain.
400 Cape Coast castle. Before their departure, Captain Shirley and he entertained the Agents, Factors and other officers at Dinner in a square summerhouse which stands in the middle of the Castle grounds.
401 Bought Indian corn for provision of the slaves to Barbados. The allowance being a chest which contains about four bushes for every Negro. Palm Oil.
401 . . . both dined with him aboard, with their wives, who were Mulattos. This he says is a pleasant way of marrying, for they can turn their wives off, and take other at Pleasure, which makes them very careful to humour their husbands in washing their linen, cleaning their chambers etc and the charge of keeping them is little or nothing.
402 Winneba. Filled some water and cut good store of firewood by the Queen's permission. Their Queen is about fifty years old, black as jet, but very corpulent. They went to pay their respects to her under a great tree where she sat. She received them very kindly and made her attendants dance after their manner before them. She was free of his kisses to Mr. . . whom she seemed much to esteem. They presented her with an anchor of brandy each and some hands of tobacco. She was so extremely civil before they parted as to offer each of them a bedfellow of her young Maids of Honour while they continued there, but they modestly declined her majesty's offer.
Here the author saw many guinea hens and various other fowl but was pleased most with the herd of wild deer ranging the plains. He saw at least five hundred at once, but so wild, that they could shoot none. Here are likewise large baboons, some as big as great mastiffs. They go fifty or an hundred together. They are dangerous to be met with, especially by women, whom (as the Author was credibly assured) they often seize and ravish to death by lying with them one after the other.
402 Akra. Phillips bought a five hand canoe of the Black General who had seized the Danes fort there. (1693) It seems it was surprised by a parcel of negros, privately armed, who got in under the pretence of trade, and having stabbed his second while he was showing them the goods dispersed to secure all the other in the castle, a party lying concealed without to assist them upon signal given. The General hearing the tumult came out of his chamber sword in hand to see what was the matter and was immediately assaulted by two blacks against whom he made good his ground for some time, calling out for assistance. But no more coming and more blacks pressing on he flung himself out of a window and fled to the Dutch after he had received several wounds one of which had disabled his left arm.
This Black General (now become governor) sent two of his servants to invite Mr B1 and Mr. B2 and the Captain to dine. While they accepting, were carried in hammocks he had sent to attend them. The guard at the castle demanded their swords, which all delivered but Phillips who refused. The General having been acquainted with it, came and told him it was his custom. The other replied, that might be, but it was never the custom of English commanders to part with their swords upon any account whatsoever. In which finding him resolute the General seeming satisfied led them in showing them the way into the Dining Room which was by climbing a ladder and entering through a hole or scuttle. When they were ascended, he drank to them and all the guns in the fort were discharged. After they had walked about a quarter of an hour in the castle, Phillips pulled off his sword of his own accord, which, he perceived the King took very kindly.
They were treated with plenty punch and victuals, which were pretty well dressed. For the governor had been cook to one of the English factories and now went very often into the kitchen to give the necessary orders. Though at dinner he was in great state, having a negro boy with a pistol at each side of him for a guard. He drank the King of England's the African company's and his guests' healths frequently with volleys of cannon of which he fired about 200 during their stay there. The flag he was flying was white with a black man painted in the middle brandishing a scimitar. . . In their way back to the English castle (4 miles to the west) they killed 4 hares with clubs. This vermin frequents in vast number the sedge and furzes which are hereabouts very thick. Phillips thought them very insipid meat. Next day arrived two Danish ships with 26 guns each sent on purpose from Denmark to treat with the Black General about surrendering the fort. . . which he delivered up (after bargaining) upon signing of an instrument to quit all pretension of reparation or satisfaction from the Black General or his Accomplices, for seizing the castle, as also the merchandizes and goods, and fifty marks of gold that were in it and to pay down 50 more at the delivery.
Chap III Rev Fr. Godfrey Lovyer, a Jacobine. Abstract of a voyage to Iffini on the Gold Coast. (This must be the Nzima coast.)
- The next day 7.6.21 they came to Cape Tres Puntas ...story of Kaboshir, John Conny, who broke the heads of some of the crew regarding payment for water in casks.
On an adjacent hill stood the Danish (or as some say the Brandenburgers') fort which some few years since having been relinquished by them and thereby fallen in John Conny's possession, has occasioned some contests between him and the Dutch. These last, pretending a title of purchase, in 1720 sent a bomb-vessel, and two or three frigates to demand a surrendering; but John being a bold and subtil fellow, weighing their strength, answered, that he expected some instrument should be shown him to confirm the Brandenburgers' sale; and even with that, says he, I can seen no pretence but to the ground was not theirs to dispose of. They have paid me rent for it (continues he) and since they have thought fit to remove, I do not design to tenant it out to any other white men while I live. This sort of Palaver nettled the British; who threw in some bombs and shot; then more inflamed with rage and brandy, rashly landed forty of their men, under command of their lieutenant, to attack the Town. They fired once without any damage and then John at the head of his men, rushing from under the cover of the houses with greater force, cut them in pieces , paving the entrance of his place soon after with their skulls. This advantage made him very exact with everybody about what he called his dues, though just in Trade. When the English had returned to a good understanding (about the water MIH) the author (Atkins) with some other officers paid him a visit. The southerly winds made so great a surf, that their landing was dangerous not to be performed by their own boats, but by the canoes of his sending, for which they paid an akki. The Negro count the seas and know when to paddle safely on or off. John himself stood on the shore to receive them attended by a guard of 20 or 30 men under bright arms, who conducted him to his house. This was a pretty large building raised from the materials of the fort. It ascended with a double stone staircase without, of 12 steps. On that floor are 3 good rooms, one his armoury, another his chamber, with a standing bed in it, and the third for entertainment of guests, furnished with tables, chairs, etc.
450 The way to it lay through two courtyards, the outer had houses for officers and servants belonging to him. The inner (a spacious square) had a ground room and good armoury past the entrance , with piazzas to accommodate his guard, and imitate in some measure the grandeur of the Prussian governors with whom John had been a servant for some years. From them he had taken in his punctilio, and knew how to put on a significant countenance. He was a strong made man, about fifty, of a sullen look, and commanded the respect of being bare headed from all the Negroes about him that were with caps.
565 plate LX A map of the Gold Coast, M D'Anville 1729
King of Asiante (very powerful) -> country of Akanni (formerly very powerful and rich in gold -> Abrambo/Kabesterra, Fetu kingdom -> St. George de Mina H. Conraedsburgh H. Ekki tekki or little Kommendo C.H.
Cape Coast shown as Oegwa
Gt. Kommendo shown inland north of Elmina.
589 Plate 61 Prospect of the coast from El Mina to Mourri from Barbot and Smith.
6 ships off Elmina. 4 more off Fort Royal at Manfrow (between Cape Coast and Mouri) Ships have three tall masts with long thin flags flying at their heads. Inclined mast at each end. Large national flag above the deck at the stern. Picture of the sun inscribed on the stern. Two rows of square windows with two horizontal and two vertical bars. A. Negro canoas carrying slaves aboard at Manfrow. Three slaves in front, four paddlers at rear, one steering. All stripped to the waist.
Prospect of St. Georges Castle at El Mina from Barbot and Dapper. View from the east, offshore. Castle has high walls, small beach below. Huge flag (three horizontal stripes) flying from post on top of steeple. Crossed on ridges of all the roofs. Village seen behind (to west of castle) Rectangular single storey buildings with ridged roofs. Bridge on many piles wit draw bridge in Dutch style. Tall mast seen upstream in the the lagoon. Only one building North of the bridge except for Conraedsburg on St. Jago.
636 Gold trinkets worn as spells. Gold horn. Gold hat band. Necklace. Arm rings. Large wooden stools. Scales for gold. Krakra gold, pea weight, iron pin, money. Piece of gold (like coral) Hair combs, 3 or 4 teeth.
669 Gold Coast music from Barbot. Snappers or castagnets. Blowing horns or trumpets. Musical tongs two pronged form with striking rod. Brass kettle hand bells. Brass Bafon? Flutes. Drum. Royal drum. Small drum. Sort of Cittern 4 stringed instrument, board with calabash? behind.
- Bech, Niels & Hyland, A D C. Elmina a Conservation Study UST Occasional report 17 1978 (notes)
- Bartels house, Mount Pleasant 1786.
Fort on St. Jago Hill called Coenraadsburg
Elmina town situated on narrow peninsula between Benya lagoon and the sea until 1873 when it was razed to the ground.
In 18th century the area around St. Jago hill was covered by the castle's vegetable and fruit gardens serving also as a place of relaxation
By the end of the 18th century plantations, market gardens, pavilions, small buildings. Well defined road layout (w of lagoon)
Map of 1799. Bridge existed. Map by J. Berseman - General State Archives The Hague.
DeCorse, Christopher R. AN ARCHAEOLOGY OF ELMINA: Africans and Europeans on the Gold Coast, 1400-1900
Examines a complex African settlement on the coast of present-day Ghana from the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries. Explores developments there in the light of European expansion and illustrates remarkable cultural continuity in the midst of technological change. BNS, 73 b/w illus, 14 maps, 5 tables, 288pp, USA . SMITHSONIAN INSTITUT, 1560989718 2001 HB GBP34.50
- Everts, Natalie, Cherchez la femme : gender-related issues in eighteenth-century Elmina, Itinerario: (1996), vol. 20, no. 1, p. 45-57.
- Summary : In 1637 Dutch seafarers took Elmina castle (Gold Coast, now Ghana) by force and turned it into the West India Company headquarters in Africa. There was a great deal of everyday interaction between the European traders and Elmina society and the majority of European men had relationships with African or Euro-African women. European travellers and ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church paint a picture of the Euro-African children who were born from these liaisons moving automatically into the African world of their Akan mothers. Apart from some vague reproaches towards European fathers, mostly from ministers who accused them of indifference, none of the sources contain a clear causal explanation for the limited European influence in Euro-African children's upbringing. This paper assumes that the lack of power of a European with regard to his Euro-African children is related to the power of his African Akan partner and the fact that she is inextricably bound to her blood relations, her 'abusua' (matrilineal descent group). Her interests and wishes are dictated by this collective and in most cases, the dominance of the host culture means that the parent who represents cultural continuity prevails over the one who is at best only a temporary resident. Notes, ref.
- Feinberg, H.M. Elmina, Ghana : a history of its development and relationship with the Dutch in the eighteenth century Boston : Boston University, 1969. - XX, 260 p. ; Thesis Boston University, 1969.
- Summary : Studies Elmina's political development, growth and daily life. The relationship of Elmina with the Dutch is analyzed from the standpoint of the meeting of two cultures to determine the degree of impingement of the Dutch on the Elminan way of life and the legacy of this culture contact.
Feinberg,H. M., Who are the Elminans? Ghana Notes and Queries No 11 June 1970
- Feinberg, H.M., An incident in Elmina-Dutch relations, the Gold Coast (Ghana), 1739-1740 African Historical Studies: (1970), vol. 3, no. 2, p. 359-372..
- Summary : The relationship between the Elminans and the Dutch is generally considered to have been peaceful and mutually cooperative. In 1739 however, a serious conflict arose between the Elminans and the Dutch. On May 26 or 27, 1739, Director General de Bordes forbade Elminan canoes to leave the Benya River to fish in the sea. He also ordered his subordinates to seize any food coming to Elmina by sea and on the morning of the 27th a number of boats loaded with corn were seized by West India Company slaves. The Elminans sought an explanation from de Bordes but received no satisfaction. They were ordered to leave the castle; the castle gates were closed, and in a short while fighting commenced. This conflict is discussed according to the following outline: 1. a listing of events from May 27, 1739 to about March 21, 1740, 2. the points of view on causes; 3. the costs to the Dutch; 4. the effect of the conflict on the Elminans. Notes.
- Feinberg, H.M., Palaver on the Gold Coast : Elmina-Dutch cooperation during the eighteenth century African Perspectives: (1979), no. 2, p. 11-20.
- Summary : Only rarely are outsiders invited to join in the judicial process of dispute settlement. One example, however, of where outsiders and the local leadership did cooperate in dispute settlement can be found on the Gold Coast of West Africa, where the leadership of Elmina town and main officials of the Netherlands West India Company cooperated in attempting to settle conflicts and in the judgment of certain civil court, cases. The present article describes this cooperation and discusses examples of civil cases settled during the eighteenth century. An outstanding characteristic of the cases in question is that the Elmina leadership and the Dutch Director General usually acted to uphold the Akan system in support of the customary law. The preservation of peace and order was an important motive for local authorities on the coast to present these cases to the Dutch, and it was undoubtedly a similar aim which motivated the Dutch to participate. Notes.
- Feinberg, H.M., Elmina Town in the eighteenth century - Los Angeles : African studies association, 1984. ASA, Los Angeles, 25-28 October, 1984.
- Summary : The Dutch remained in control of the Castle St. George d'Elmina from 1637 until 1872. The author draws a picture of Elmina as a community mainly with data from letters and papers belonging to the Second Netherlands West India Company.
Feinberg,H M, Africans and Europeans in West Africa: Elminans and Dutchmen on the GoldCoast during the eighteenth century Am Phil Soc 1989 186 pp Trans of Am Phil SocVol 79 Pt 7
- Hutton, William, A voyage to Africa, London, 1821
- 53 The next settlement to the eastward of Commenda is Elmina, where the Dutch have a fine fortification, and which is the only one on the coast that is protected by a deep ditch. It is also further strengthened by a small fort, called St. Jago, which is built on a hill that commands both the town and the castle, and is called the key to the latter. The Dutch are so jealous regarding St. Jago, that, even in time of peace, they will not allow the English to be admitted into it.
Great credit is due to the Dutch for the improvements which they have carried on here. Besides a harbour for small vessels, there are piers, wharfs, and cranes, for landing goods. The country also is also better cultivated than at any other part of the coast; nearly two miles at the back of' the town, are well laid out in beds of ground-nuts and Mr. Neiser has made a fine plantation with 35,000 cotton trees, about two miles from the castle, and cut a road to it, at least thirty feet broad, at his own expence. I rode into the country with this gentleman, when I was last at Elmina, and was astonished at the improvements he had made. He then informed me that he had eighty men employed in making a coffee plantation; and it is to be hoped many others in Africa will follow Mr. Neiser's example, which is the most effectual way to cultivate the country, and civilize the natives. The gardens at Elmina, containing oranges, pineapples, sour soups, and other tropical fruits, besides vegetables of all descriptions, do great credit to the Dutch and the English at our head-quarters are frequently obliged to them for a supply of these articles. Mr. Neiser's hospitality deserves to be particularly mentioned.
The town of Elmina is the only one on the coast which is built with stone, and also the only one that is paved. There is one broad street before the fort, but the town is badly laid out, the houses being all built close together, without more than sufficient space to walk between them.
The number of inhabitants may amount to eight thousand; and, like most of the natives residing on the coast, they fish with the cast-net regularly every morning, excepting on their fetish days.
Although Elmina belongs to Warsaw, the king does not prevent the inhabitants from exercising municipal authority. These people were guilty of an act some years ago, which can never be forgotten. The governor, Hoogenboom, having given them some cause of offence, they beset him one evening at the billiard-table and murdered him in the most inhuman manner. Elmina is the easternmost maritime town in the kingdom of Warsaw, and Chama the most western. I have already stated that this country is tributary to Ashantee, and have described the various towns on the coast which I have been at; but never having been in the interior of this kingdom, I will not attempt a description of it.
The Warsaws carry on a considerable trade with Europeans, in gold and ivory and are more remarkable for honesty than their neighbours the Fantees.
If they have any palaver (dispute), the Pynins and Cabboceers (Pynins and Cabboceers signify the magistrates or head men of the town, the chiefs) assemble to hear the parties, which sometimes occupies them a whole day, as they are extremely clever in argument, and will frequently speak for hours together. When the Pynins cannot decide to the satisfaction of the parties in town, they assemble in the fort and submit the case to the decision of the governor .
Hyland,A. D. C., An Introduction to the Traditional and Historical Architecture ofGhana (In Maggie Dodds (ed) History of Ghana, American Womens Association, Accra1974)
- Lawrence, A. W. Trade Castles and Forts of West Africa, Jonathan Cape, London, 1963 (quotations and notes) See also Lawrence, A. W. Fortified Trade Posts: The English in West Africa 1645-1822, Jonathan Cape, London, 1968 (recast in a shortened form and retitled) Copyright material is used here with the permission of the owners, the Trustees of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust.
- 29 European salad plants, cabbages and cauliflowers from imported seed, fruit trees from tropical Asia and America. Newly introduced: lemon, sugar cane, melons, orange, tamarind, banana, coconut, pineapple, pawpaw, guava. (mango - origin in Indo-Burmese region, and avocado - native of Central America - were then evidently unknown MH) sweet potato, yam, maize (?) cassava.
32 Dutch maintained a cotton plantation near Axim and Shama 1765-83
49 Senior and junior officers, free artisans, soldiers, slaves for indoor and outdoor work. Paid (sometimes live-in) free Africans or mulattoes. If necessary Governor might even get supplies from a foreign fort in the neighbourhood. In 1778 Cape Coast borrowed cartridge paper from Elmina. In 1780 Elmina sold 55 fathoms of new 5" cable, weight 274 lbs. at 1 oz of gold per 100 lbs. for a schooner of the English company.
Loneliness: mutual business usually arranged by letter.
Only Members of Council or Company's seamen made regular journeys. Officers jumped at the chance of going visiting, several hours by canoe or in a hammock carried by 1 or 2 couples of men.
Different companies entertained one another, relations superficially amicable, business rivalry, spies, plots.
1779. 'The indefatigable pains and perseverance, peculiar to the Dutch, with which they by degrees endeavour in future to bring about their beloved and political but diabolical plan to force the English town of Komenda into uniting with their own protectorate across the river.
Tedium, strains, isolation, conditions of physical and mental distress, grumbling, bad temper. Open dissensions and quarreling at the Governor's table. Maudlin and assertive recollections of elderly governor. Senior officers might arrange for Africans to drum and dance in the garden for their entertainment. Main feature of conviviality was drinking. Dutch favoured neat brandy or rum. English mixed their brandy with lime juice, sugar and water. Drank to excess.
English allowed men to spend the night in the town and to bring women into the fort. Dutch inflicted heavy penalties for both offences. Dutch allowed men outside forts only in daylight. Gates unbolted at day break, slaves living in huts outside reported for duty. Africans from elsewhere might come in to buy and sell. Lengthy process, values reckoned in weight of gold. Slaves brought firewood - large amounts required. Arrival of ships interrupted everyone's routine. When the fort's lookout sighted approaching sails, the flag was hoisted and preparations made to receive the vessel. Canon made ready (is it a pirate?) Friendly man-o-war or ship with VIP entitled to a salute of so many guns. Cargo brought ashore by canoes or small boats belonging to the fort. Canoemen organized by a bumboy, free African employed by the fort. Transport of goods from the beach to storerooms done by slaves, on their heads. Clerical staff hard worked, inventory of incomings, calculating prices. Ship's master in a hurry - scared of disease affecting his crew. Medical precautions. Men not to drink palmwine. Unsuitable living quarters, poor diet, habitual drunkenness, savage punishments. Malaria, yellow fever, waterborne diseases. Dutch began with the intention of keeping chaplain's post filled - provided a small library of devotional books (1645). Soon resorted to unordained preachers. Dutch company's board in Amsterdam always prohibited concubinage with local women; practice flourished none the less, though in secret. Dutch governor's table had (1722) ten dishes of victuals, variety of beer and wine, attendance of 6 negro servants, each a gold chain round his neck. Wheat imported, issued out against pay in the form of biscuit. Stocks ran out. Guinea corn or maize used instead. Fresh meat seldom obtained even by officers, vegetables grown for commander's table. Unprivileged Europeans relied on salted or smoked meat, flour, cheese, butter. Ignored the abundance of fresh fish. Every underground cistern was walled, floored and vaulted in brick. Rectangular box-like brick conducted water from roofs to channels which ran beneath the paving of the courtyard.
122 Re Elmina. Rationalization by the Dutch 1637-82. Layout in 1637 was in general as today. Buildings contained doorways and windows lined with Dutch brick on upper floors. Dutch rarely used the word bastion. Majority of Dutch work undertaken for improvement - to obtain weatherproof store rooms (ground floor); to increase living accommodation (above). Upper storeys are floored with wood and covered with flat or gabled roofs according to the width of span.
123 In places the Dutch added two or more storeys. By 1774 the reconstruction had been virtually completed. Enormous mass of paper accumulated from 1675-1791 by 2nd Dutch company and as yet uncalendered.
124 Based on report by Michael Hemmersham, Nuremberg goldsmith, 1639 -1645 at Elmina. When you come inside the castle there is a large open space on which is a church that nowadays is used as a buying and trading house. East bastion . . . there a bell on the walls is pulled by the soldiers and struck as often as the hours are struck among us on our towers. If you climb up some steps there you come to a tower (north round tower) in which lived the Treasurer and above him the Crew Master (Commodore) who is in command of the ships. If you go up another stair, on your left is a gallery inside the castle to the outward (an enclosed passage behind the outer wall of the rectangular block) But on your right is a well-built breastwork, from which you go down three or four steps and on your right hand come to the battery on which lie 9 cannon cast in brass. This is called the Governor's battery since his dwelling is close by (in the rectangular block) through which you can go and come down again to the courtyard. . .
In my time a passage was built around the N Tower where the Treasurer has his dwelling and a bell was brought from Sao Tome and hung there on the walls so as to strike the hours both by day and by night. Riverine yard called the cat yard, where many civet cats are kept. The perfume industry - an important one in those times of little washing - relied greatly on the odorous secretions of civets, which, in captivity could be deprived of their scent twice weekly. Dutch hold the castle garrisoned with people of German and low countries race. Whatever a man's religion might be, we held our Sundays with prayer, reading and singing in the Governor's quarters in the great hall, which was hung with pikes, muskets and similar weapons.
129 1645 Governor had a kitchen built outside the church between the pillars, 11' long by 5'6" wide. Castle armed with 21 large brass guns including one 48-pounder mortar, 6 - 24 pounders 1 - 14 pounder canon, 5 - 12 pounders, 3000 canon balls of iron, 153 of stone, 53 - 12 lb 130 - 8 lb mortar bombs 53 spare muskets, 20 anchors, 200 - 1000 lb (for sale), canvas for sails, salted or dried food, 41 barrels of meat = 8 tons, 500 lbs of salt fish, 85 Europeans, 184 slaves (ate African food) Garrison of 69 officers and men, Governor, 4 Europeans concerned solely with trade, 9 in charge of handicrafts, a lay preacher (or comforter) who at this time conducted religious services on Thursday and Sunday, acted as a medical dispenser in the absence of a chaplain and doctor.
From time to time a chaplain had been appointed but invariably resigned and went back to Holland. Small collection of pious books, 72 copies of the Psalms. Medical stores: 147 varieties of ointments, plasters, drugs, etc.
No one was allowed out in the evenings and so the occupants of the castle might have escaped malaria and yellow fever, because the wind off the sea keeps mosquitoes away. . . Fort St. Iago enjoys no such immunity. System of guarding it by roster exposed the entire garrison to infection.
On slopes around the fort and in valley beyond grew fruit, salads and green vegetables - preventatives of scurvy. Soldiers' lodgings backed against the curtain wall of the great courtyard: admitted air on one side only and rain frequently came through the roof. Roofs generally tiled. Wood of roofs and floors constantly needed replacement. Timber was cut at Shama or Axim and shipped along the coast on the ketches built there by the Dutch, sawn up by castle slaves. Company vaulted all storage space since tiled roofs leaked. Bricks from Holland came out as ballast, thin, cream to greyish yellow.
132 1682 Castle is built square, with very high walls of a dark brown stone. Garrison 100 white men and perhaps as many black soldiers, all in the Company's pay. Drawbridge is defended by a redoubt (the W bastion) with 8 iron guns and a ditch in the rock 20ft. deep and 18ft broad with an iron portcullis and 4 brass pattereroes within the gate and a large guardroom next to it. On the land side the castle has two canals always furnished with rain or fresh water for the use of garrison and ships.
Besides 3 very fine cisterns within the place, each holding several hundred tuns to save the rain, so that garrison is in no great danger of wanting water. . . There is room in the castle for a garrison of 200 men and several officers. The general's (governor's) lodgings are above in the castle, the ascent to which is up a large white and black stone staircase, defended at the top by two brass guns and 4 pattereroes of the same metal. . . and a guard room, pretty large, next to which is a great hall full of small arms of several sorts, as an arsenal, through which and by a by-passage you enter a fine long gallery, all wainscoted, at each end of which there are large glass windows, and through it is the way to the general's lodgings, containing several good chambers and offices along the ramparts.
133 The compting houses particularly, are large, finely fitted for the factory accomtants bookkeepers and servants, in all 60 persons.
142 Governor's kitchen, near W corner of the second floor, contains a fireplace and a chimney; all the officers ate at the governor's table, hence the enormous size.
- Lever, J.T., Mulatto influence on the Gold Coast in the early nineteenth century : Jan Nieser of Elmina / . In: African Historical Studies: (1970), vol. 3, no. 2, p. 253-261.
- Summary : The mulattoes of the Gold Coast never constituted a distinctive social class. Nevertheless men and women of Euro-African descent through their contact with both the foreign traders and the local African communities were able to take advantage of the perennial need for mediators and brokers between the two groups. Some mulattoes were among those most favourably placed to assimilate European modes and techniques and to adapt these in the light of conditions on the Coast. They did so in increasing numbers from about the second half of the 18th century. Perhaps the moat influential Gold Coast mulatto during the period of the Ashanti invasions of 1807 and after was Jan Nieser, a man with many ties to the Dutch, the coastal African communities, and Ashanti. Of his life some aspects are examined. Notes.
- Van Dantzig, Albert, Castles and Forts of Ghana as a Collective Historical Monument, in Maggie Dodds (ed.), History of Ghana, American Women's Association, Accra, 1974.
- In order to tell you something, though not everything, about the forts and castles in Ghana, I'll try to be short, but it is a subject about which one can write little books and tell a lot in much more than an hour. This evening I'll tell you briefly something about what are trade forts; why they were built here in Ghana; what is their historical importance. I would like to tell something about their common characteristics; then, I cannot avoid it, of course, as an historian, to tell you something which you could call a brief history. And finally I would like to tell you something about what life was like in the forts and around the forts. So, here we go . . .
Now forts and castles of course we find in many parts of the world. Most of the forts and castles we know outside Ghana are either military forts or left over from the Middle Ages, the Feudal era, and in that case they are often grown out into palaces. An example of the extreme form of palaces growing out of forts is the Versailles Palace near Paris. But the forts and castles outside Europe took mostly the character, particularly if they were built by Europeans, of outposts or strongholds like you have in the United States - like Fort Worth, Fort Duquesne; here in Africa too, such as Fort Lamy, an example of military outpost. What we have in Ghana is rather unique, this whole series of trade forts. The really interesting thing of all the forts and castles of Ghana is not so much the individual buildings which really are, let's face it, less impressive than Versailles or the chateaux along the Loire in France, but rather the forts and castles as a collective historical monument. Because what is really most surprising and interesting is that over less than 300 miles of coastline, in a relatively short period of about three centuries, not less than 60 fortified trade posts of various kinds were built. (The original text has a simple map of the coast showing the following forts and castles listed from east to west:
Keta (Fort Prindesten),
Ada (Fort Kongesten),
Ningo (Fort Fredensborg),
Prampram (Fort Vernon),
Teshie (Fort Augustaborg),
Accra (Christiansborg/Osu Castle,
Fort Crevecoeur/Ussher Fort, James Fort),
Senya Bereku (Fort de Goede Hoop/Good Hope),
Apam (Fort Leydsaamheyd),
Kormantin (Fort Amsterdam),
Anomabu (Fort William),
Mori (Fort Nassau),
Cape Coast (Cape Coast Castle),
Elmina (St. George d'Elmina, Fort Conraadsburg),
Komenda (Fort Vrendenbourgh),
Shama (St. Sebastian),
Dutch Secondi (Fort Orange),
Takoradi (Fort Witsen),
Butri (Fort Batenstein),
Dixcove, kwidi (Fort Dorethea),
Fort Duma, Takrama (Fort Louise),
Princes Town (Gross Frederichsburg/Fort Hollandia),
Fort Ruychaver, Axim (Fort St. Anthony),
Ankobra (Elise Carthago),
We could in a way see the whole set of forts and castles and trade lodges in Ghana as a kind of huge shopping street - shopping street of a few government-sponsored trading companies which did not sell for money so much as for trade goods from Africa - a kind of barter trade therefore. Although we should not forget that we did have here on the coast a currency in the form of gold dust.
The various establishments of the European companies, the chartered companies, vary greatly in importance, ranging from the big castles - in fact there are only three castles in Ghana; Elmina, which was the headquarters of the Portuguese, later the Dutch; Cape Coast Castle, built by the British; Christiansborg Castle here in Accra, built by the Danes. Those big castles had several hundred big guns, large garrisons, commercial officials and government officials and at a. later stage, the real craftsmen. There was a considerable number of castle slaves also - often craftsmen themselves. In many respects these big castles can be seen as mini-cities really but low in the scale we have the ordinary forts. And even the Prussian headquarters at Gross Frederichsburg, at Princes Town, was never called anything other than a fort. Of course it was much smaller than the other three castles. These forts often had up to about fifty guns, a commercial and military commander united in one person, with a few soldiers and few officials for commerce. Then finally there was a large number of so-called lodges which were mostly manned only by civil assistants not by real fighters. Often they were only occupied when ships came to anchor for trade and they mostly had only rudimentary forms of defence with one bastion, two or three guns, or the rather peculiar case of the Dutch lodge at Mount Congh, now called Queen Ann's Point, near Cape Coast, about which it was reported at the end of the 17th century: “We have here one man with an axe.”
Why did the forts and castles spring up here in Ghana in such great density, one may ask. There are several reasons for this and one of the more important is perhaps simply of geography. Both east and west of Ghana - the Ivory Coast and into Togo, Dahomey and Nigeria area - we have only low sandy coasts backed by a system of lagoons with generally rather dangerous surf; no natural harbours; whereas only in this area from the Volta to roughly Cape Three Points we have this quite different type of coast with many natural harbours - little bays and coves with promontories very useful for building forts which were aiming at defending the sea-roads in front of a certain area which was developed as a trading area. Then another advantage of the Gold Coast was that gold was found and mined at fairly close distance from the coast, which we don't find either east or west. Furthermore, in the period in which the forts were built - between the 15th and 18th centuries - Europe had an insatiable demand for gold. Finally, perhaps one of the most important reasons that so many forts were built, is that so many companies could settle here yet none of these European nations colonized the Gold Coast as they did other parts of the world. This can partially be explained by the fact that African society here was simply too well organized already before the arrival of the Europeans to allow simply the taking into possession, as happened for instance in many parts of America. In fact the African chiefs, coastal chiefs, and the traders from the interior to the coast, were very quick to recognize the advantages of this competition between the various European companies.
So Ghana has indeed a fairly unique history if you look at the general colonial history of the world, because this is one of the rarer areas where for 300 years European and non-Europeans had been trading basically on a foot of equality. And even afterwards, in the 19th century, in the great era of imperialism, there was really no room in Ghana for the type of colonial exploitation that we find in such areas as the Congo. The famous Fante Bond of 1844 is indeed one of the earliest types in Africa of a modern independence movement. These forts and castles did in fact give a sense of security to both Europeans and Africans. To the African they gave the security that the Europeans were not likely to “break out” from their forts. But on the other hand, by treaty also, Europeans were compelled to come to the defence of the coastal states in which they established these forts in case these states were attacked from the interior. I must of course call your attention to the fact that the Europeans did not always come to their aid, particularly here in Accra at the time of Akwamu invasions, Akim invasions, Asante invasions, against which Europeans, in spite of all these beautiful treaties didn't do anything. Perhaps the forts and castles also, to a considerable extent satisfied the “Territorial Imperative”, to speak with the words of Ardrey of the Europeans themselves. They did feel a certain kind of safety within those walls of forts and castles which were really built on territory they only rented from the local chiefs. Finally, the local chiefs also brought of their own free will many of their so-called palavers to the castles and forts, known in Fante as Aban. The Aban became the basis of later politics in Ghana and there is still, in Fante the word Aban, used to describe “government.” Such informal jurisdiction developed particularly in the early stages in Elmina; later in and around Axim; and of course there is the famous case of the 1830s of Governor Maclean who did the same thing around Cape Coast and then into the interior.
So to summarize my introduction I think it is a bit shortsighted to say about the forts and castles - “Well it may be a tourist attraction of Ghana but let's not stress it too much because they are just European leftovers of colonial days.” The forts and castles can with sufficient reason, to some extent, be regarded not only as monuments to the slave trade because they were used for slave trade, but also to a long history, a long tradition of Ghanaian independence. Surprisingly and paradoxically as it may sound, they could be regarded to some extent even as monuments of freedom - monuments at least, of equality. (If you disagree please let me know in the question hour!)
Something about the common characteristics we find in the various forts and castles which of course individually are quite different yet we can recognize some basic features. Generally the basic pattern is a square surrounded by curtain walls which end in pointed bastions. Within this square of curtain walls and bastions are built one or sometimes more than one, generally two storied buildings; in the bigger forts sometimes three stories or a tower. Also in virtually all the forts we find, below the central square, the cisterns, or in smaller courts, one cistern. The ground floor of the forts and castles is generally used for storerooms - there is no ventilation on the outside, only on the inside - or for rooms for the garrison for the lower officials. The top floor is for residence for high officials, for officers, and for the “palaver halls” which we find in most forts and castles. The bastions are sometimes solid, like the curtain wall, but also often we find hollow bastions which were used for instance as powder magazines, or in the days of the slave trade - and I need not tell you that slave trade was developed rather late here compared to other parts of Africa - these hollow bastions were often used for slave prisons or slave holds.
Now most of the forts were greatly expanded, particularly in the 18th century. At a later stage they developed so-called spurs. These were outer walls forming a kind of triangle in front of the main gate. Sometimes they became virtually a part of the fort as they did at Cape Coast or Dixcove. Other times they were simply thin walls surrounding service areas which in case of war were also used to provide shelter for the towns-people against invading enemies. Sometimes these spurs became very big, bigger than the fort itself, as we have for instance in Apam and in small forts where trade did not develop very well and where the Europeans decided to use these forts more as service forts rather than trade forts. So we find a big carpentry shop, a cat yard, as we have at Elmina and other Dutch forts, yards where civet cats were reared who produced a kind of liquid which was very important for the perfume industry. The cisterns played a very important role not only for the supply of drinking water to the inhabitants of the fort but particularly for supply of drinking water to passing ships, because these forts were not only trade forts but were also supply forts. They were stations midway in the long voyage that the ships made. Ships were often serviced near the ports themselves where there was a kind of natural harbour. And castle gardens supplied fresh vegetables and fruits for the crews of the ships. Again in the days of slave trade large quantities of millet and corn, as well as palm oil, were also bought locally.
Then I shall try to be as brief as possible on this most complicated subject - “a brief history” of the forts and castles, where I may refer to books and booklets on the subject. Of course the first fort was Elmina, built in 1482 by the Portuguese. The Portuguese and Spanish had a tradition of fighting Islam since, in fact, the 8th Century A.D. By the middle of the 15th century the success of the Portuguese and the Spanish against Islam in the Iberian Peninsula was quite great. By the middle of the 15th century an important event took place when, in the last Christian outpost in the east, the city of Constantinople was taken by the Turks. It is really from that date that we see particularly the Portuguese getting keen on discovering a sea route to the Indies around the coast of Africa - the work of Prince Henry the Navigator.
So in 1471 the first Europeans arrived here on the Guinea Coast, an event, which in fact, two years ago was celebrated with a special historical conference. Hardly ten years later, 1481, Diogo d'Azambuja negotiated with the local chief at Elmina for the construction of a fort - San Jorge d'Elmina. The name of the chief with whom Diogo d'Azambuja negotiated is Caramança. This Caramança is often said to have been one of the first chiefs of Elmina, by name of Kwamena Ansah. Very nice, but modern historians more or less agree that by 1482 there were not yet any Fante on this coast. So how come that in 1482 the “chief of Elmina” had a Fante name? Somehow it doesn't fit! Now in a 17th century booklet written for Louis XIV to support some claims he thought to have on the Gold Coast, we find the description of these earliest contracts of d'Azambuja with not only Caramança but also “another Mansa”. This is quite interesting because mansa is also a sort of Mande or Arab title for traders. So developed this more modern idea that actually the spelling of Caramança in Portuguese was perhaps a bit misleading, that it was really Kara Mansa - a mansa named Kara - who negotiated with Diogo d'Azambuja. This would make the early history of Elmina much clearer and much more understandable because there is also this confusion about the origin of the word “Elmina”. El is a particle, but in Spanish, not in Portuguese, and the Spanish had never had anything to do here. Elmina people would say, “the mine”. But that would be A Mina. In Arabic, on the other hand, we have Mina meaning “the port” and that does make sense. When the Portuguese arrived here they found one mansa called Kara and when they asked him “what is the name of this place?” he replied, “the port - El Mina”. And that is why the Portuguese named the place Elmina and not A Mina. Moreover there were gold mines but at a considerable distance from Elmina, not at Elmina itself. It also explains perhaps why the Portuguese went out straightaway to build such a big castle. Of course the original castle was not as big as the present one but even the original one, which we find in that part which is around the old courtyard - the small courtyard - was of considerable size. The architects when they look at it have often been struck by the fact that it looks so much like a crusaders' castle - “krak”- in the Middle East. And it is very well possible that the Portuguese, arriving here for the first time, meeting Muslim traders, thought that in fact the great Islamic Empire of northern Africa extended as far as this part of the coast. They therefore decided to build a crusaders' castle to establish themselves firmly and to christianize the people around them. For which purpose indeed they set out straightaway.
Only later on they discovered they had built rather too big a castle for the simple purpose of trade. Indeed the following two forts they built at Axim and at Shama, at natural outlets of the gold trade of the Ankobra River and the Pra River, were much more modest in size. Also in 1482 it was only 30 years after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and it is known that by that time the western European Christians were deeply impressed by the heavy cannon the Turks had used to breach the walls of Constantinople. Again we recognize something of this at Elmina Castle where still we have, on the land side, the northwest bastion which is indeed quite formidable. The Portuguese probably did expect at any time after the construction of the fort that the Turks would march up with their great field-cannon.
During the 16th century we find the first signs of competition coming from the French and English traders who tried to penetrate in this official monopoly area of the Portuguese and at that time it became necessary for the Portuguese to build defences to the seaward rather than to the landward. It appeared soon that the feared Muslims would not march up to drive them out and as a matter of fact relationships with the Africans became quite friendly. Elmina itself even, shortly after the establishment of the castle, got Portuguese city rights. But the greatest problem soon seemed to be the competition on the sea - how to keep away these competitors from other parts of Europe. And then we see Elmina castle extending toward the sea with a whole new courtyard and with heavy guns covering the Elmina Roads. We find the same thing in Axim now, a bastion pointing toward the sea, and in Shama. The competition of the English and the French was not as dangerous as that of the Dutch in the later 16th century because the Dutch decided to revolt against their overlords Philip II of Spain, and that when the Dutch were the main suppliers of trade goods to the Portuguese. They traditionally were redistributors of trade-goods coming from Asia and Africa to Lisbon from where they redistributed them all over the rest of Europe. But they sold at the same time to the Portuguese traders in order to sell again overseas their manufactured products such as cloth, which played a very important role in the overseas trade. All that sort of broke up in a few years, at the end of the 16th century - the Portuguese monopoly on the Gold Coast. Not only did the Dutch revolt against their overlord, the king of Spain, in 1580 Spain and Portugal were also united under one crown with the result that Portugal also became officially the enemy of the Dutch.
After 1580 we see Dutch shipping on the Gold Coast increase enormously. The Dutch were able to supply goods at a lower price than the Portuguese and by 1612 finally one of the local chiefs, the one of Asebu; broke the spell by openly inviting the Dutch, sending in fact two ambassadors to Holland to ask the Dutch to build a fort at Mori. This fort unfortunately has nearly completely disappeared although we can still see some ruins of which the most striking feature perhaps is the great quantity of Dutch bricks we find in the walls. Because traditionally the Dutch built in bricks, and moreover this was the first time they had built outside of Holland in fact they thought it safer to bring the building material from Holland rather than to rely on the local people who as yet were not fully dependable to the Dutch - as officially they had treaties with the Portuguese. Soon they began to extend their influence. In 1624, shortly after the establishment of the Dutch West Indian Company they made a treaty with a chief of a then newly arrived group of Fantes - a treaty which did not very much impress, apparently, this chief, Ambro-Braffo, of the Borbor-Fante; in 1631 they made a similar treaty with the English who had established themselves at Kormantin. With the growing Dutch and also the English competition the Portuguese were finding it very difficult to get their gold and made some attempts to mine gold themselves in a hill near Komenda - Abrobi Hill - an attempt which ended in total disaster. The mine collapsed and shortly afterwards they tried again in the interior, in the Ankobra Valley at the confluence of the Duma and Ankobra Rivers where again it is said they were surprised by an earthquake which I believe is an erroneous interpretation because from some research I conducted, perhaps they did find gold but also some silver or electrum, which was a sign in traditional Akan mining that the spirits were against them and that is probably the reason why they suddenly interrupted the rest of their activities. In 1637 the Dutch made, from Brazil, their final great assault, after a few failures of earlier days, on the Portuguese chief castle at Elmina, putting their guns on Saint Iago Hill which they later fortified with Coenraadsburg Fort. Very shortly afterwards, in 1642, the Portuguese were completely expelled from the whole Gold Coast. However the Dutch had never had as much a monopoly as the Portuguese had had because already we have seen the English had established themselves at Kormantin and very soon the Dutch found the problem of competition from other nations often in the form of so-called “interloper companies” the Dutch sailors who united foreign flags and tried to compete in that way with those who were involved in the official charter company -the West India Company.
In the years between 1648-1659 we see particularly the activities of the notorious renegade official of the Dutch West India Company, a Pole by birth called Caerlof. Caerlof who first under Swedish flag established a large number of trade lodges and forts, next door as you can say, to the existing Dutch forts, then returned to Europe, made use of the fact the King of Sweden got himself involved in a war with the Kingdom of Denmark, and returned to the Gold Coast a second time under Danish flag and promptly “conquered” his own establishments! In the end the Dutch inherited back from the Danes most of these trade posts. One of the major results of this episode was the proliferation of new forts. Caerlof built a foundation for Cape Coast Castle - Carolusburg - originally named after Charles X, then King of Sweden; also a fort at Takoradi, Butri, Anomabu and at Osu, the foundation of modern Christiansborg Castle. The episode of Caerlof also led to that extraordinary episode of the Dutch Fort Ruychaver (excuse me for pronunciation) when the Dutch built very far inland, in fact about 40 miles from the coast, a small fort on the right bank of the Ankobra in the middle of the richest gold producing area known then, near modern Prestea, still an important mining town, where they did for sometime a profitable trade. But soon it appeared the trade post was much too isolated. The commander of the fort got into a palaver with some of the chiefs and in the end saw no other solution, since he could not communicate quickly with the coast, than to blow his attackers, together with himself, up! Which was the untimely end of Fort Ruychaver!
Again after the episode of Caerlof quietness did not last for a long time; soon the Dutch had to face another competition That was when the English decided to set up shop in a bigger way after the Restoration when the new King of England, Charles II, with his friends, decided to dabble a bit in overseas expansion. The early English companies had not been very successful but now they had full financial support and of course, full political support. The result of this was that in 1664 having been annoyed on several occasions by the Dutch, the English decided to send a surprise fleet not only to the Gold Coast but also to the Dutch possessions in America, under one Admiral Holmes. Indeed they were taken by surprise and many of the forts were taken with the exception of Elmina Castle of course. But the Dutch too had their surprise in store for the English because before the English could prepare themselves properly to ward off a counter-attack - all this took place in official peace time! - the Dutch sent Admiral De Ruyter who quickly recovered most of the lost forts and also conquered the original English headquarters at Kormantin, leaving however to the English the former Swedish fort of Carolusburg at Cape Coast.
It's a very essential episode that happened in 1664-1665 and that affected also you Americans. Because it was in that same naval war that the Dutch also lost New Amsterdam which was named after the Duke of York, brother of Charles II, later James II, who played an important role in overseas expansion as I've said. So New Amsterdam became New York and in revenge the Dutch named the former English fort at Kormantin after Amsterdam - perhaps to make up for the loss of “New Amsterdam”! The Duke of York indeed continued to interest himself in the African enterprise. It was he also who first encouraged the striking of the famous Guineas, the gold coins made of Guinea gold, which were so pure that in fact they became worth more than the official pound sterling. Until quite recently the English used the term “Guinea” to denote the equivalent of 21 shillings.
In 1672 the Africa trade was put on a new and sounder footing in England with the foundation of the Royal African Company which became the great competitor of the Dutch West Indian Company in this part of the world. It was this Royal Africa Company which also built here in Accra, James Fort.
Again there are few Americans who realize that James Fort and New York are actually named after the same person. As if the situation wasn't complicated enough, in the 1680s we get again a new nation establishing itself - the Brandenburg African Company, in fact, another Dutch interloper company, which established a fairly large fort at Princes Town and a few minor stations in Ahanta; highly annoying for the Dutch who up to that time thought the Ahanta area, closest to the gold producing area, was entirely theirs. All this competition was bound to lead to turmoil, also within the interior of the Gold Coast and this we see happen indeed after 1690 when particularly the English and the Dutch got involved in their endlessly complicated series of wars known as the Komenda wars, centered around Komenda where both Dutch and English built a fort within shooting range of each other. Komenda was also described in a famous book by William Bosman which shows how this cut-throat competition not only led to a general involvement of the English and the Dutch in the politics of the immediate interior but also led to a gradual decline in the supply of gold. So that by 1700 in fact the gold trade was so much in decline that Europe had to look also to the Gold Coast for that other great “commodity” from Africa - commodity in quotation marks - slaves. It was only after 1700 that the slave trade became important on the Gold Coast, which, by the Portuguese and also for a long time by the Dutch, was always regarded as unfit for the slave trade. For slave trade you needed war and with war trade paths from the gold mines to the coast could not remain open. We recognize this episode, the chapter of the slave trade, also the construction of the forts with the relatively new extensions in the form of hollow bastions, slave prisons, of which we still find this notorious example in Cape Coast Castle - the dungeons. Around 1700 also, although their competition continued to be unsuccessful, we've seen attempts of the French to penetrate - much feared by the English and Dutch and the Danes and Brandenburgers. Though planned with great grandeur nothing comes out of it but a small wooden fort which lasted only two years. In the late 18th century we find still a number of forts built at the extremes of the Gold Coast - the English at Beyin in Nzima area, the Danes at Keta, Ada, and also a small British fort at Prampram. But the great age of fort building was really over by that time.
In the 19th century we see again an entirely new development which in a way is back to “square one”! The Portuguese started by building defences mainly on the landside. We see that it again became necessary to build defences on the landside, this time against the invading Asante or, in the case of Elmina, against the Fante, who were the great enemies of Elminas. So around Cape Coast and Elmina we see in the 19th century the construction of a number of fortifications which are really not meant for trade but purely for protection. In fact Coenraadsburg Fort, built in 1665, in the days of Holmes and De Ruyter, is the only fort which was built for defence purposes and not for trade among the forts of Ghana. In the 19th century also we find some attempts for the foundation of plantations. But on the other hand the African trading elite became independent and we see established centers in such places as Axim or Cape Coast or Sekondi of the grand houses of the first independent African traders. The smaller forts began to fall into decay. The castles themselves became now mainly government offices - very little trade is really done there - or army barracks. Cape Coast first was actually, after the departure of the Dutch in 1872, the capital of the Gold Coast. But in 1876 the English moved their capital to Accra and made Christiansborg the seat of government which is what it is up to this very day. Other forts are turned into post offices or rest houses but it's only in around 1950 the state begins again to become officially interested in these buildings and monuments. Now in the 1970s we are getting to the stage where all these forts are being restored. In Cape Coast Castle a museum is going to open very soon, Elmina Castle will be turned into a tourist hostel and most of the other forts will serve as rest houses.
I think it is nearly time that I stop. But still I would like to say a few words . . . “Stop looking at your watch!” . . . a few words about life in and around the forts because that is something which people visiting these places don't always realize - what was life really like in these forts.
They are sometimes called ships permanently at anchor in the days of the companies. The whole organization of social life in the forts was very much like that on a ship. Very important, central for the fort, was the flag - very essential that the flag was hoisted very early in the morning and lowered late at night. And also, if you were a trader, to make sure that you went to the right place. Between Cape Coast and Anomabu you had five forts of two or three different nations. If you were just half a mile wrong you could expect to be shot at by the enemy. So it was indeed essential that you clearly showed yourself by your colours. That is also why you find on those old engravings those unbelievable big pieces of textile hanging over these forts.
Life in the fort was furthermore like on ship - regulated by bells and the hour glass. Bells one may find only in a few places still extant but many of these forts still have bell towers that are now empty - for instance the round tower of Elmina Castle on the northeast side. Then very important like on ships was the firing of salutes. Every time a ship arrived salutes were fired. It is interesting to know that some forts in fact had such excellent natural defences or were so unimportant that they have never fired anything but salutes. Places like Butri had something like twenty cannon but those cannon had never been used for anything other than firing salutes. The commercial and political hierarchy in the forts was parallel to and sometimes coincided with the military hierarchy. Of the companies the West Indian Company was the most permanent - and personally I can tell you more and I feel more confident on that subject rather than on that of the Danish, German or English companies. For the day-to-day government at Elmina the Director-General was assisted by a Council consisting the chief merchant, the fiscal bookkeeper-general, some chief factors; and then he was assisted outside Elmina by factors and sub factors who commanded the minor forts. The council, consisting of the aforementioned, decided on policy of trade and general politics also, as much as it involved making treaties with local chiefs. In fact the director-general and council did constitute a kind of real government and had considerable power, much greater power than any modern trading company acting in this country. Scribes of course had extremely hard work before the days of the typewriter. All important letters had to be made at least in triplo, one copy for the local file, one copy for the directors in Amsterdam - the so-called assembly of 10; and one copy for one of the various chapters of the West Indian Company concerned. The Company was sub-divided in 5 chambers representing the major trading cities in the Netherlands. Also the communications with the Netherlands were extremely slow, particularly the outwards mail from the Gold Coast to Europe which sometimes took more than 1½ years because ships could not sail but from the upper coast to the lower coast with the current and the prevailing winds. All of you have been swimming sometimes in the sea here and know that the current is always from the west to the east. When you are looking at the airport all the planes are always taking off against the nearly permanent western winds. So letters from Gold Coast to the Netherlands had to go all the way to the West Indies and sometimes to North America before they reached home.
And so for instance I sometimes found references to well-known events - for instance to the death of Queen Ann which I believe was in 1714, which was commemorated in a letter written in 1718 because that was the first time they had heard she died - after more than three years! Another incident which is interesting to note how essential it was indeed to sail from the west to the east not the east to the west - in 1641 when the Dutch tried to conquer Axim, where, the Portuguese were still holding out after the Dutch had captured Elmina they sent a small fleet - unwisely in the rainy season when the winds and the current are strongest - in order to capture Axim. But after 4½ weeks the commander of this fleet decided to return because he had reached only Takoradi!
Furthermore social life at the forts must have been extremely dull really. The only way of amusing oneself was drinking and that is probably what has also given the Guinea Coast the name “white man's grave”! - not that the climate was so unhealthy but that people drank themselves to death! Life was extremely, severely regulated. The gates of the castle closed at night at seven; the drawbridges, if they were there, were drawn up. And yet all these preventive measures, did not prevent the rise of a mulatto class. Of course one should not be too hard on the men of those days because there were very few European women around and those that did come either died or were indeed hardly attractive as I understand from descriptions. These women sometimes occupied their free time, and they had lots of free time, with the distribution of large quantities of bibles which I'm afraid were not very much read! There were of course attempts to establish schools in the castles, particularly at Cape Coast and Elmina but again it was not very successful and to my surprise, even in modern works on Ghanaian education, this is stressed far more, these early failures of the early castle schools, than the much more important training which was given in the courtyards - these workshops where many Africans were trained in such useful crafts as carpentry, ship repairing, and gardening. Gardening again was mainly done for the inhabitants of the forts or for the supply for the ships. But at least they had the effect in this country that many new crops were introduced, such as tomatoes, maize, some people even say the better qualities of yam. And these must have originally come from these castle gardens.
Well I've tried to stay within the limit of time. I'm not sure how clear I've been but at least I hope I've been clear enough to arouse some questions in you.
| ||from: |
Van Dantzig, A, Het Nederlandse Aandeel in de Slawenhandel Fibula 1968 (in Dutch)
Elmina and fort Coenraadsburg about the middle of the eighteenth century. From Barbot, Description of the North and South Coast of Guinea, London 1746
credit: Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Den Haag, 61 B 25
Van Danzig,A, (transl), The Dutch and the Guinea Coast, 1674-1742 A collection of Documentsfrom the General State Archives at the Hague. Ghana Academy of Arts and SciencesAccra 1978
| ||from: |
Van Dantzig, A, Het Nederlandse Aandeel in de Slawenhandel Fibula 1968 (in Dutch)
Jan Pranger, "governor of the Gold Coast." In the background, an African servant. Through the window, in the distance, fort Coenraadsburgh is visible. Painting by Frans van der Mijn, 1742
credit Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Wartemberg,J, Sao Jorge d'El Mina, Premier West African European Settlement: Its traditionsand customs (Ilfracombe no date)
- van Kessel, I (ed.) Merchants, Missionaries & Migrants: 300 years of Dutch-Ghanaian relations. Kit Publishers & Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2002.
Authors: E. Kusruri, D. Kpobi, D.K. Arhinful, H. van der Zee, A. Pakosie, J.J. Vrij, N. Everts, V.K. Nyanteng, H. den Heijer, R. van Dijk, A. Perbi, E. Akyeampong, M. Doortmont and I. van Kessel
In November 1701, David van Nyendael, an envoy of the Dutch West India Company (WIC) was the first European to visit the royal court in Kumasi, capital of the emerging Ashanti empire in the hinterland of the Gold Coast. Three hundred years of Dutch-Ghanaian relations have passed since then.
Merchants, Missionaries and Migrants – 300 years of Dutch – Ghanaian Relations focuses on various aspects of the long-standing and intricate economic, political, cultural and human ties - past and present- between Ghanaians and Dutchmen.
Experts from Ghana, the Netherlands, Surinam and Indonesia present their research findings on these issues. These fascinating histories deserve a wide audience. They describe a wide range of topics from Dutch-Ghanaian history: from the trade in gold, ivory and slaves to the cocoa trade; from liaisons between European men and African women in previous centuries to present-day Ghanaian migration to the Netherlands; from the involuntary migration of ten of thousands of slaves to the plantations in Surinam to the little known history of the African soldiers who sailed from Elmina to serve in the Dutch army in the East Indies; and from the role of Dutch genever in Ghanaian ritual to the dramatic life story of Jacobus Capitein, the first black Christian minister to be ordained in the Netherlands.
Yarak, Larry W, Asante and the Dutch 1744-1873 Clarendon Press Oxford 1990 (quotations and notes)
- 15 Introduction of maize at beginning of 19th century
9 sika sene, biribi nsen bio: Wealth surpasses everything sika ne ohene: money is king
44 Elmina to Kumasi 10 -12 days
95 In addition to an overriding concern to continue Dutch domination of the Akan trade in exported gold, a major incentive for the Dutch to expand their commercial and military presence in West Africa was the desire to facilitate the procurement of slaves for the sugar plantations of the New World. In 1734 the West Indian Company lost its monopoly to free Dutch traders in the slave trade as access to the forts was opened to free Dutch traders. The company's direct participation in the slave trade ended soon thereafter as private trading companies such as the Middelburgsche Commercie Compagne assumed the task of supplying the Dutch plantations in the Caribbean.
100 From 1735 until its dissolution in 1791 the West Indian company's activities on the Gold Coast were limited to those of an officially sanctioned administration body overseeing the staffing and physical maintenance of the Dutch forts. However, it remained the responsibility of their personnel at the coast to see to it that sufficient slaves were available for purchase by the free Dutch traders in exchange for licensing fees and a duty on each slave purchased at the forts. Moreover, from 1754 company employees were allowed to engage in private trade while carrying out their official duties in the forts, a practice that would continue well into the 19th century.
100 Dutch slave exports peaked in the 1760s when a total of some 70000 slaves were loaded onto Dutch ships. In October 1771 -- during previous 12 months 1500-1600 slaves were exported from Elmina. Annual average for 1770s 4900.
Yarak, L.W. , Murder and theft in early nineteenth century Elmina, Symposium on rebellion and social protest in Africa: (1981), 27 p..
Summary : This study is based on the records of the Dutch coastal administration's Council of Senior Officials, covering the period between 1815-1830. They provide fascinating and often vivid glimpses into otherwise obscure conditions of life. At a more analytical level, however, these records document significant aspects of social tension within Elmina's class structure. The cases dealt with involve theft, and murder, attempted murder of conspiracy to commit murder. Notes.
OTHER LINKS AND REFERENCES
Ancient Dutch forts and castles in Ghana http://www.ambaccra.nl/
300 years diplomatic relations Netherlands -Ghana http://www.ambaccra.nl/pages/c_history.html
Michel Doortmont's website
AncientDutch and Portuguese Forts
Boxer, C.R, The Dutch in Brazil
Boxer, Q The Dutch Seaborne Empire1600-1800 London 1965
Brukum,N. J. K., African European Relations on the Gold Coast 1791-1844 (thesis)
Doortmont, Michel R. and Natalie Everts, 'Vrouwen, familie en eigendom op de Goudkust.Afrikaanse en Europese systemen van erfrecht in Elmina, 1760-1860' in: Geld& Goed.
Jaarboek voor Vrouwengeschiedenis 17 (Amsterdam: Stichting beheer IISG 1997),pp.114-130. ['Women, family, and property on the Gold Coast. African womenand European systems of inheritance in Elmina, 1760-1860']
Doortmont,Michel R., Th. van Bakergem, and A.E.M. Landheer-Roelants, 'Van Bakergem -St.George d'Elmina (Goudkust, West Afrika)' in: Nederlandse Genealogieën 12(1998), in press. [Genealogical study of the Ghanaian-Dutch Van Bakergemfamily.]
Doortmont,Michel R., Natalie Everts and Jean-Jacques Vrij, 'Tussen de Goudkust, Nederlanden Suriname. De Euro-Afrikaanse families Van Bakergem, Woortman, Rühle enHuydecoper', forthcoming. ['Between the Gold Coast, the Netherlands andSurinam: The Euro-African families Van Bakergem, Woortman, Rühle, andHuydecoper'; a family history and genealogy of four Dutch-Ghanaian families fromthe 18th and 19th centuries.]
Emmer, P, The History of the DutchSlave Trade: A Bibliographical Survey. Journal of Economic History 32/3 (1972)
Lawrence,A.W. Trade Castles and Forts of West Africa (London: Jonathan Cape 1963)
Lever, JT, The Dutch in Guinea 1792-1816MA Thesis
Postma, Johannes. The Dutch in theAtlantic slave trade, 1600-1815. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge UniversityPress, 1990.
vanDantzig, Albert , Forts and Castles of Ghana (Accra: Sedco Publishing Ltd 1980).
Van Danzig, A, (transl), The Dutch and theGuinea Coast, 1674-1742 A collection of Documents from the General StateArchives at the Hague. Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences Accra 1978
Van Dantzig, A, Het Nederlandse Aandeel inde Slawenhandel Fibula 1968 (in Dutch)
Van Dantzig, A, The Dutch MilitaryRecruitment Agency in Kumasi Ghana Notes and Queries 8 214 1966
Yarak, Larry W, Asante and the Dutch1744-1873 Clarendon Press Oxford 1990
Weijtingh,D.P.H.J. 'Achttien jaren aan de Goudkust, door Brodie Cruickshank; uit hetEngels vertaald en met eene inleiding vermeerderd' (Amsterdam 1855). [Thisbook is a translation in Dutch of the book by the British official BrodieCruickshank, Eighteen Years on the Gold Coast, first published in 1853.Weijtingh's new introduction to the book deals with the history and organizationof the Dutch possessions.]