THE COLONIAL ERA: BRITISH RULE OF THE GOLD COAST
Figure 3. Administrative Divisions of the Gold Coast, mid-1950s
Source: Based on information from William Ernest Ward, A
History of Ghana, London, 1958, 24.
Military confrontations between Asante and the Fante
contributed to the growth of British influence on the Gold Coast.
It was concern about Asante activities on the coast that had
compelled the Fante states to sign the Bond of 1844. In theory, the
bond allowed the British quite limited judicial powers--the trying
of murder and robbery cases only. Also, the British could not
acquire further judicial rights without the consent of the kings,
chiefs, and people of the protectorate. In practice, however,
British efforts to usurp more and more judicial authority were so
successful that in the 1850s they considered establishing European
courts in place of traditional African ones.
As a result of the exercise of ever-expanding judicial powers
on the coast and also to ensure that the coastal peoples remained
firmly under control, the British, following their defeat of Asante
in 1874, proclaimed the former coastal protectorate a crown colony.
The Gold Coast Colony, established on July 24, 1874, comprised the
coastal areas and extended inland as far as the ill-defined borders
The coastal peoples did not greet this move with enthusiasm.
They were not consulted about this annexation, which arbitrarily
set aside the Bond of 1844 and treated its signatories like
conquered territories. The British, however, made no claim to any
rights to the land, a circumstance that probably explains the
absence of popular resistance. Shortly after declaring the coastal
area a colony, the British moved the colonial capital from Cape
Coast to the former Danish castle at Christiansborg in Accra.
The British sphere of influence was eventually extended to
include Asante. Following the defeat of Asante in 1896, the British
proclaimed a protectorate over the kingdom. Once the
asantehene and his council had been exiled, the British
appointed a resident commissioner to Asante, who was given both
civil and criminal jurisdiction over the territories. Each Asante
state was administered from Kumasi as a separate entity and was
ultimately responsible to the governor of the Gold Coast. As noted
above, Asante became a colony following its final defeat in 1901.
In the meantime, the British became interested in the broad
areas north of Asante, known generally as the Northern Territories.
This interest was prompted primarily by the need to forestall the
French and the Germans, who had been making rapid advances in the
surrounding areas. British officials had first penetrated the area
in the 1880s, and after 1896 protection was extended to northern
areas whose trade with the coast had been controlled by Asante. In
1898 and 1899, European colonial powers amicably demarcated the
boundaries between the Northern Territories and the surrounding
French and German colonies. The Northern Territories were
proclaimed a British protectorate in 1902.
Like the Asante protectorate, the Northern Territories were
placed under the authority of a resident commissioner who was
responsible to the governor of the Gold Coast. The governor ruled
both Asante and the Northern Territories by proclamations until
With the north under British control, the three territories of
the Gold Coast--the Colony (the coastal regions), Asante, and the
Northern Territories--became, for all practical purposes, a single
political unit, or crown colony, known as "the dependency" or
simply as the Gold Coast. The borders of present-day Ghana were
realized in May 1956 when the people of the Volta region, known as
British Mandated Togoland, voted in a plebiscite to become part of
Data as of November 1994