Gold Coast

Gold Coast

Gold Coast





Quick reference

General issues: British colony 1874-1957

Country name on general issues: Gold Coast

Currency: 1 Pound = 20 Shilling, 1 Shilling = 12 Pence 1875-1957

Population: 1 486 000 in 1901, 6 034 000 in 1957

Political history Gold Coast


Postal history Gold Coast

Please click on the image to enlarge

Gold Coast is located in western Africa – the current Ghana. The population consists of Niger-Congo peoples. Along the coast live the Fante. In the 19th century the Fante were organized in small polities that, when required, joined forces. More inland live the Ashanti. The Ashanti have, in 1701, established a confederation that, by the 19th century, had developed into a centralized kingdom encompassing much of the central part of the future Gold Coast.  Yet further inland live different peoples that, in the 19th century, were less centrally organized in smaller polities.

The first Europeans  to establish trade posts in the future Gold Coast were the Portuguese in the 15th century. In the 17th century several other European nations established themselves in the future Gold Coast: the British, the Danes, the Dutch, the Prussians and the Swedish. The trade that had initially been focused on gold, ivory and spices in the 17th century changed to the slave trade. By the 19th century the British, Danes and Dutch still had a presence in Gold Coast.

British rule

The British had, until the 19th century, put the administration of the settlements on the Gold Coast in the hands of private companies. In 1821, Cold Coast was, for the first time, put under colonial administration – at the time from Sierra Leone. In the course of the 19th century, the Cold Coast colony will go through several administrative changes – being put under the rule of a private company again, being ruled as a separate entity and being ruled as part of larger entities.

The extension of British rule started in the coastal region. The Fante polities were inclined to accept British rule as they saw in it a way to protect themselves from Ashanti incursions.  Thus, treaties of protection were signed. As the Danes and the Dutch left Gold Coast in 1850 and 1874 respectively, their settlements came under British rule. In 1874, after the third Ashanti War, the Ashanti were forced to accept British rule in the coastal region and the British, in 1874, ultimately established Gold Coast as a separate colony, now encompassing all of the coastal region and extending inland up to Ashanti land.

Asantehene Prempeh II in the 1930's - Asantahene is the official title of the ruler of the Ashanti.

Asantehene Prempeh II in the 1930’s – Asantahene is the official title of the ruler of the Ashanti until the present day.

The Ashanti were the most powerful polity in the future Gold Coast. The Ashanti were conquered after four Anglo-Ashanti wars between 1823 and 1896. Ashanti was proclaimed a British protectorate in 1896 and a British colony in 1901.

To the north of the Ashanti kingdom the British seem to have extended their rule, mainly to prevent the French and the Germans from taking possession of these lands when, in the late 19th century, the ‘Scramble for Africa’ was at its height. In 1897, the protectorate of the Northern Territories was proclaimed by the British. Borders were agreed upon with the French and the Germans in 1898 and 1899. The Northern Territories are, in subsequent years, brought under effective British rule.

Both the Ashanti protectorate – later Ashanti colony – and the Northern Territories protectorate were administered from the Gold Coast colony. They would remain de jure separate entities until 1946 and 1953 respectively, when they were transformed to regions of the Gold Coast colony. The British, for the most part, established indirect rule in Gold Coast, ruling through existing polities. Many of these polities exist in modern Ghana until the present day and are still a part of the administrative system of Ghana.


During WWI, the British and the French – from Dahomey – invaded the neighboring German colony of Togo. In 1914, the Germans surrendered. In 1916, the British and the French agreed upon an administrative division – a division that, in 1919, would be revised. In 1922, the British and the French gained the League of Nations mandate to administer the former German colony. The mandated territories in 1946 became United Nations trust territories. The British part – British Togoland – would come to  be administered as an integral part of Gold Coast.

Towards independence

The call for independence after WWII becomes politically manifest. Going through a number of steps towards self government, Gold Coast gains independence within the British Commonwealth as Ghana in 1957. British Togoland, upon independence, de jure becomes an integral part Ghana after a 1956 referendum in which the population has voted for association with Ghana.

Gold Coast developed economically due to the introduction first of coffee then of cocoa as a cash crop. Natural resources – gold and timber – furthered economic development. Economic development translated into infrastructural and social development. By the end of British rule Gold Coast was one of the most developed countries in western Africa.

Postal history Gold Coast

Postal history Gold Coast

1952 – Breaking cocoa pods. Cocoa is the most important crop in Gold Coast

The first mail to and from the settlements in Gold Coast is known to have been processed through Sierra Leone. Stamps are issued for Gold Coast from 1875. All stamps issued are of the designs common for the British colonies. Probably the most attractive sets are issued in 1948 and 1952 – in a template common to the British possessions the engraved stamps have images of  scenes specific for Gold Coast. The last stamps are issued for Gold Coast in 1954 – to be superseded by the stamps from independent Ghana from 1957.



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