Gold Coast (West Africa)

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Historical map of the Guinea Coast labeled "Gold Coast"
Historical map of the Gold Coast, 1750

Gold Coast ( Portuguese : Costa do Ouro , English : Gold Coast ) is a historical designation for a stretch of coast in West Africa that largely coincides with the coast of present-day Ghana . From the first European voyages of discovery in the 15th century up to the 19th century, the entire so-called “ (Upper) Guinea coast ”, i.e. the area from roughly today ’s Liberia to today’s Nigeria , was used to designate the products which the Europeans hoped to exchange there. From west to east that was the Pepper Coast , the Ivory Coast, the Gold Coast and the Slave Coast . The name Gold Coast indicates that the Europeans used this coast to trade gold brought to the coastal trading posts from deposits in what is now the interior of present-day Ghana, the Ashanti region. The designation lasted until 1957 in the name of the British colony of the Gold Coast , which became independent in that year as "Ghana". The old name can sometimes still be found on maps today.

Historical development of the coastal area known as the Gold Coast

However, the geographical designation mentioned above does not seem to have been common from the beginning, especially since gold was also preserved on the Gambia River, the Rio de Cantor of the Portuguese, albeit not to the same extent. In Portuguese and English documents of the 16th century, if a coastal town is not specifically named, the Mina Coast is mentioned. Most likely, the term Gold Coast appeared with the Dutch in the 17th century . However, the oldest Dutch description of Guinea by Bernardus Paludanus (aka Bernardus ten Brocke) from 1596 (actually describing the voyages of Jan Huygen van Linschoten ) does not yet mention this name. However, there is a mention of the Swabian Andreas Josua Ulsheimer , who, as a ship's doctor, sailed on a Dutch ship in 1603 to the Gold Coast, among other places. He mentions in his account of this trip:

"While I was now bringing the spring to Amsterdam, two ships from Genoese Compania were ordered to go to Guinea afterwards on the Gold Coast (which lies in Africa and its beginning to Capo Palmas 4 degrees from the Linea Equinoctiali nemet bit later Kust Acora ob Monte), as it stretches for 120 miles...

...After that, we sailed further and further, to the C. de 3 puntas (meaning the cape of the three peaks ), at which point the right gold coast rises."

Another report by Pieter de Marees (who was there in 1601) appeared in 1602. By the end of the 17th century the term Gold Coast had been defined somewhat more precisely. He was probably based on the territorial power limits of the European powers here. Willem Bosman , who stayed on the Gold Coast in the 1690s, puts the beginning of the Gold Coast " 3 miles west of Assinie (today: Half Assinie ) " and the end " at the village of Pomni, seven or eight hours east of Aara ". Even if these locations are difficult to verify today, the official beginning of the Gold Coast was probably at the mouth of the "Rio de Suegro d'Acosta" of the Portuguese (including "Issini pequena" and "Issini grande") and that End probably at Cape Monte, west of Klein-Popo ( Anecho in present -day Togo ).

In the 19th century, the term then became more and more popular as a designation for the coast between the beginning of the British and Dutch sphere of influence east of Cape Palmas and the Kingdom of Dahomey. But this term also began to falter and finally only the section between the Ankobra estuary and the Volta estuary was so named, which essentially reflects today's geographical understanding.


Several states maintained possessions on the Gold Coast:


  • Wilhelm Crecelius: Josua Ulsheimer's travels to Guinea and description of the country. In: Alemannia . 7, 1879, ISSN  0934-4896 , pp. 97–120 ( online ).
  • Wilhelm Bosmann: Reyse to Guinea or detailed description of the gold mines there / elephant teeth and slave trade / along with their inhabitants, customs / religion / regiment / wars / marriages and burials / also all animals located here / so far unknown in Europe. Heyl & Liebezeit, Hamburg 1708.