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People and history

FORERUNNERS OF MODERN GHANA-THE ASANTE EMPIRE

Although it has long been known that Africa is the continent where mankind first emerged, little is known of West African history before contact with the Europeans. Over the past fifty years, much has come to light regarding the history of West Africa, from the study of archaeology, from the study of Arab writings and histories (Bovill, 1958), and from the oral traditions of the Africans themselves (Davidson, 1998).

It is now well established the ancestors of the present-day Ghanaians (no connection to the medieval empire of the same name) traded freely with distant peoples by means of overland routes. Goods passed back and forth from West Africa to Carthage, Rome, and the Middle East for two thousand years before the arrival of the Portuguese in 1471 (Bovill, 1958).

In many ways, the modern state of Ghana is based on the rise of the Asante empire, which, at its height, encompassed an area larger than the present country. The Asante grew in strength for two centuries, coming into conflict with Britain at the end of the 19th century, but nearly maintained their independence into the 20th (Wilks, 1993). But it is important to remember that many tribal groups successfully resisted the Asante, including the Fante and the Nzima in the west and the Ewe in the east.


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