The History of the Great Ashante Empire


The Ashanti Empire was a West African state that emerged during colonial times. Today, this state is modern Ghana. The Ashante Empire comprised diverse villages with different cultures, which included the Kintampo complex and Sangoan culture. These communities bred livestock and cultivated local crops.

2700 years later, this population abandoned the villages, and new inhabitants replaced them. The current occupants would then be the ancestors of the modern-day Ghanaians. Among the populations were the Akan, 48% of the modern Ghana population and 41% of the Ivory Coast. These populations founded many kingdoms during ancient times. The Bonoman Kingdom is the oldest empire that the people built in the northern region of Ghana. The kingdom of Bonoman then gave birth to several Ankan states.

One of these states was the Denkyira. It was rich in gold mines. The Kingdom became wealthy through trading gold with the Portuguese. Denkyira expanded its territory by forming sub-states. One of these states was Kumasi. Tired of the dictatorship, Chief Osei Tutu of the Kumasi called up the other chiefdoms to unite and overthrow the Denkyira Kingdom.

After forming a confederation (Asantehene), Osei Tutu led the Asante union in a battle against the Denkyira troops. The Asante union had ambushed the Denkyira forces and defeated them. After emerging victors to their superior, the Asantehene made Kumasi the capital of their new kingdom. Ashante then became the most powerful empire. The Ashanti community had a decentralized form of government as it comprised many small chiefdoms.

The Economic Activity Of The Ashanti

Since the Ashanti region was a rich gold mine, the Europeans who traded with them named it a Gold Coast. Their relationship with the Portuguese was mutual. The Portuguese exchanged wealth and weapons with the Ashantis for gold. The weapons and the extensive wealth contributed to the Kingdom of Ashanti becoming powerful and extending its boundaries. This was before Chief Osei Tutu staged a coup to usurp the Denkyira empire, i.e. before the 18th century.

In the 18th century, after Osei became the sole ruler, he made the gold mines royal property. He also made their currency gold dust. As such, many Ashanti citizens would accumulate gold dust. More so, the growing merchants who came from wealthy families. Middle-class and poor-families also modified their clothes using ornamentations from gold dust.

Meanwhile, royal families would smelt large portions of gold to make precious jewelry and valuable statues. Since the Ashanti Empire began trading gold at the onset of the 1700s, by 1800, it advanced to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The trade involved exchanging enslaved people for goods. Mostly the Europeans would buy the African slaves and take them to Europe.

The British, Dutch, and French had a thirst for African slaves. Therefore, the Ashanti changed from trading in the north to the south. The Ashanti received manufactured goods, luxurious items, and ammunition from their new trading partners.

Conflict In The Ashanti Kingdom

As the Ashanti kingdom expanded its territory, the Akyem plotted against it. They were tired of the dominant Ashanti rule. The then Ashanti King Kusi Obodum had neglected the possibility of intercommunal conflict back then. Meanwhile, Akyem had established an alliance with Dahomey and Oyo. In 1764, this triple alliance ambushed a large army of the Ashanti forces, resulting in an embarrassing and devastating defeat. The Ashante clan, therefore, deposed Kusi for his negligence and replaced him with Osei Kwadwo.

Upon descending to power, Kwadwo built great diplomacy with Fante and Denkyira. However, the Fante suspected its relationship with Ashanti. The doubt eventually degenerated into hostility in the year 1806.

When the Fante harbored a group of Fante fugitives that the Ashanti had accused of stealing from graves, their relationship completely hit a brick wall. The Fante had refused to hand the thieves to the Ashantis. This resulted in an Ashanti Fante war. The Ashanti won the battle, which ended in 1824. They also captured the Fante villains.

Conflict With The Europeans

Between 1824 and 1873, the Ashanti protested against British encroachment in their land. Nonetheless, by 1874, the British had already conquered the Ashanti Kingdom as they had already taken control of Kumasi, Ashanti’s capital. Despite the British being superior, Ashanti warriors had a strong spirit of resistance. They continued to fight for their Kingdom. However, in 1900, the British left the Asantehene and the Empire for the Gold Coast colony.

Wars between the Ashanti Empire and Great Britain and its allies occurred between 1824 and 1900. Amid the chaotic moments, the British had initiated truce most of the time with no success. The conflict between Ashanti and the British kept recurring since Ashanti desired to strengthen its stronghold in the coastal area. As such, they had numerous confrontations with the British who also wanted to control the coast.


The British had become allies with the Fante in the 1820s after helping them attack the Ashanti. This also contributed to the enmity between the Ashanti and the Europeans. Around January in 1824, the two rivals met in a battle. During the combat, the British ran out of ammunition, suffered many fatalities, and were forced to retreat. Amid escaping, MacCarthy, who was their captain died from two gunshot wounds.


The Ashanti troops then captured and detained some of the military officers as prisoners. They had also decapitated MacCarthy after killing him and made it a ritual to use his skull as a cup for drinking.

However, when Britain heard it had miserably lost to the Ashanti’s, they decided to form a new army under the governance of John Hope Smith. The army was diverse as it consisted of many natives such as the Denkyiras and other Ashanti enemies. It was not later that the Ashanti’s staged an attack in the British territory. Unfortunately, this time their prowess couldn’t match the royal marines, militia, and the rockets and firearms from Britain. They had to flee the battlefield leaving most of their casualties with fatal injuries. Nonetheless, in 1831, the two rivals signed a treaty where they agreed that Pra River would be the boundary between their territories.


Another battle between the Ashanti and British occurred between 1873 and 1874. During this time, the British had extended their territory after buying Dutch Gold Cost from the Dutch. As such, the Dutch Shanta treaty (agreement between Dutch and Shanta) was no longer in use. Therefore, the Ashanti invaded the new British territory. As a result, Britain sent General Garnet Wolseley together with 2500 British troops to send the invaders away. Some of the British soldiers belonged to the Fante ethnicity.


Wolseley arrived at the Gold Coast before his soldiers to plan his attack. His aim was to build roads that would connect to Kumasi, camps, bridges, and stock a lot of ammunition. Around 1874, the troops had arrived. On January 31st, the British ambushed the villages forcing the Ashantis to escape. The troops bombed the royal palace, lynched houses leaving the village in ruins.


However, in 1874, the Ashanti signed the treaty of Foeman to stop the wars. The treaty required the Ashanti to give Britain plenty of gold in exchange for free trade at the coast and the abolishing of human sacrifices. Meanwhile, General Wolseley landed a promotion and praises after his victory.


Between 1895 and 1896, another war happened between the British and the Ashanti. The latter had refused to become a British protectorate from around 1891 to 1894. They also prohibited the British from creating settlements in Kumasi. The Ashanti king wanted to protect its land and gold from the Europeans. The Ashanti even sent delegations to London and offered to send their cocoa, gold, and rubber to the British in exchange for their liberation. Meanwhile the British were eager to control the Ashanti kingdom. It was not long before the British troops marched to Kumasi.


The Ashanti king at that time ordered the people not to resist the British. However, the troops started ailing from diseases leading to the death of some of them. The Asantehene had also refused to pay for the gold and so the British arrested him. In 1897, the Ashanti became a British protectorate as all its leaders were deposed to Seychelles.


As time went by, the British innovated technology in Ashanti, built railway lines, and expanded their territory. However, around 1900, another war broke when Sir Frederick Mitchell Hodgson, a British representative committed an offense by sitting on the Ashanti golden stool. The latter was a royal throne which was sacred among the Ashantis. This act angered the Ashantis who then attacked the soldiers.


The British soldiers who were now fighting the numerous diseases sought refuge. Great Britain sent relief services to help its soldiers who were now battling for their lives. These people who came to aid went through numerous traps before reaching their destination. However, in January 1902, the Ashanti s decided to allow their territory to become a British protectorate in exchange for the security of the golden stool. The Ashantis saw their decision to secure their golden stool as a win.




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