Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

Ghana's Gold in the Elizabethan Era

During the reigns of Edward I (1272-1307) and Elizabeth I (1558-1603), the Gold Coast was a region of great financial interest and monetary exploration for European colonialists.

Gold Coast

Gold Coast during the Elizabethan era

The Gold Coast is located on the west coast of Africa, in the modern-day countries of Ghana and parts of Cote d'Ivoire. It gained its name from the abundant gold in the region, a major financial interest and monetary attraction for European explorers and traders.

It was bordered on its western edge by the French colony of the Ivory Coast, on the eastern side by the French-mandated territory of Togoland, extending northward to the French Sudan, and bordered by the southern coastline.

Ashanti covers 24,560 square miles, the Northern Territories span 30,600 square miles, and the British-mandated territory of Togoland encompasses 13,040 square miles. The Elizabethan era marked the beginning of English involvement in the Gold Coast, which would continue and evolve over the centuries.

Exploring the Gold Coast: A Tale of Two Reigns - Edward I and Elizabeth I

During the reigns of Edward I (1272-1307) and Elizabeth I (1558-1603), the Gold Coast emerged as a region of immense interest and exploration for European powers. This fascinating historical period witnessed a surge of exploration and trade in the region now known as Ghana and parts of Cote d'Ivoire. Let's delve into the captivating story of this era when the lure of gold and new horizons drove European adventurers to these distant shores.

The Gold Coast's Golden Allure: Edward I's Era

Edward I's reign marked the early stirrings of European interest in the Gold Coast. During this period, English navigators embarked on voyages to explore the fabled land where gold seemed as abundant as the grains of sand. The promise of riches and the mystique surrounding the Gold Coast enticed these early explorers.

Around 1364, a century after Edward I's reign, French adventurers arrived on the Gold Coast. They established lodges and forts along the coast, one of the most notable being Elmina. This marked the beginning of European encroachment on the shores of the Gold Coast.

The Elizabethan Era: Golden Dreams and Trade Endeavors

Fast forward to the Elizabethan era, a time of great exploration and ambition. The Gold Coast continued to hold a prominent place in the minds of European powers, including England. The pursuit of wealth and the desire to establish trade networks drove Elizabethan sailors and merchants to venture to this far-off region.

English sailors like John Lok, Thomas Windham, and William Towrson embarked on voyages to the Gold Coast. These intrepid explorers engaged in trade, seeking to capitalize on the region's bountiful resources, particularly gold and ivory. Their efforts paved the way for future English involvement in the region.

Competition and Conflict: A Multinational Arena

The Gold Coast was not just the stage for English ambitions; it also attracted explorers and traders from other European powers. Portuguese navigators had been extending their voyages down the West Coast of Africa since the late 14th century. In 1471, Portuguese explorers Juan de Santerem and Pedro d'Escobar, traded for gold near Elmina and Shama. Eleven years later, Diego d'Azumbuja led an expedition to build Fort San Jorge da Mina (Elmina). This marked the establishment of the first European settlement in the region.

As European interest grew, so did competition and, at times, conflict. The Portuguese and Dutch rapidly emerged as serious rivals to the Portuguese in the race for dominance along the Gold Coast. The Dutch captured Elmina in 1637 and Fort St. Anthony at Axim in 1642, curtailing Portuguese influence.


Legacy of Exploration and Trade

The reigns of Edward I and Elizabeth I played pivotal roles in shaping the European exploration and trade that would continue on the Gold Coast for centuries. Merchant companies, like the Company of Adventurers of London, were instrumental in organizing and financing expeditions to Africa.

The legacy of this era of exploration and competition lives on in the history and culture of the Gold Coast, which eventually became a significant part of the British Empire. The stories of Edward I's early navigators and Elizabethan adventurers offer a glimpse into the beginnings of European engagement in this rich and diverse region of West Africa.

English merchants formed merchant companies to facilitate their involvement in trade and exploration on the Gold Coast. These companies, such as the Company of Adventurers of London, were crucial in organizing and financing expeditions to Africa. The Company of Adventurers of London, trading in the East Indies, was also called the Company of Merchants of London.

The Company of Adventurers of London

The Company of Adventurers of London was chartered in 1599 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It was granted a royal charter to engage in overseas trade. The company's primary focus was establishing trade routes to the East Indies, including regions of modern-day South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Far East.

One of the notable voyages associated with the company was led by James Lancaster in 1601, who sailed to the East Indies and returned with valuable goods. As the 17th century progressed, the Company of Adventurers of London gradually evolved into the more famous British East India Company (BEIC).

The BEIC was formally incorporated by royal charter in 1600 and would become one of the most influential and powerful trading companies in history.

Did you know?

The prominent coastal tribes along the seashore included the Nzima, Ahanti, Shama, Komenda, Elmina, Cape Coast, Fanti, Winneba, Assin Gomoa, Ga, Adangme, Awuna, Agbosome, and Aflao. Moving inland, the major tribes were the Aowin, upper and lower Wasaw, Sefwi, upper and lower Denkera, Twifu, Assen, Essikuma, Adjumako, Akim Abuakwa, Akim Kotoku, Kwahu, Akwapim, Eastern and Western Krobo, Akwamu, Krepi, Shai, and Ningo.


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