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History of the Asante

The Asante people first appear in the historical record around the 13th century. By the 17th century, they had built themselves into a great kingdom. According to Asante tradition, their rise to power occurred when a Golden Stool came down from Heaven to rest upon the knees of the first Asante king, whose title was Asantehene. The Golden Stool has remained a major icon of the Asante people, and is believed to hold the souls of their nation.

In practical terms, the Asante rose to prominence through economic trade. They first became wealthy by participating in Africa's slave trade, which by the 17th century was a major priority for European nations settling in the Caribbean. Ghana, right on the coast, was an easy access point for traders both in Africa and Europe to sell slaves. The other trade that the Asante were deeply involved in was gold. As anybody who's ever studied any history knows, gold holds an important place in human history. Not only were the Asante well connected to the gold trade, but they were also notable goldsmiths.

At its peak in the nineteenth century, the Asante kingdom extended more than 550 km from the coast into the interior forest region of what is present day Ghana. The Asante Confederacy’s military strength was unparalleled in the area and they were able to defeat states such as Denkyira (1701), Wankyi (1711-12), Takyiman (1722-3) and Ankyem (1742) to become one of the most powerful empires in West Africa. Beginning in the late-eighteenth century, Asante’s administration was centralized in Kumase, where high-ranking leaders were responsible for overseeing various activities across the region. A network of roads maintained by the government linked the kingdom with important centers of trade to the north and south and the court of the Asantehene (or king of the Asante) was a bustling center of activity.

To Europeans, Ghana was the place to go for African gold. In fact, they actually called it the Gold Coast. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to interact with the Asante, and soon Spanish, Dutch and British merchants made their way to the Gold Coast, as well. In 1867, the British formally colonized the Gold Coast, and within a few decades had conquered the Asante kingdoms, as well as others in the region. The British and Asante fought for control of the territory until about 1901, when the last of the Asante lands were formally incorporated into Britain's Gold Coast colony. Rich gold deposits are located in Ghana’s forested areas. Together with slaves and ivory they were the staple raw materials sent north along trade routes. Gold was either used in North Africa or traded to Europeans and was much appreciated by Islamic peoples. The Asante would be British subjects until Ghana was finally granted independence in 1957.The implication is that much of the population is descended from inhabitants of the medieval state of Ghana, which flourished between 800 and 1000 A.D. in what is now Mali.

Timeline of the Asante Kingdom
Timeline of the Asante Kingdom
British Colonization
The Asante Kingdom strongly resisted attempts by the British to subdue them. The Asante Kingdom was among the first African Kingdoms to give the European Colonialists a good fight. Between 1823 and 1896, the British fought four wars with the Asante Kings and in 1900, they defeated the Kingdom and incorporated it into the Gold Coast Colony as a Protectorate. However, in 1926 the Asantehene was given ceremonial control over Kumasi. And in 1935 the full role of leader of the Asante people was restored.


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