Which Nation in West Africa Was the First to Receive Independence from British Rule? Describe the Movement Towards Independence in That Nation. How Did This Establish a Pattern for the Transition to Independence in the Rest of British West Africa?

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  • Topic: Ghana, British Empire, Kwame Nkrumah
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Which nation in West Africa was the first to receive independence from British rule? Describe the movement towards independence in that nation. How did this establish a pattern for the transition to independence in the rest of British West Africa?

The relationship between Europeans and the people of Ghana has been a long and painful one. The Portuguese first landed on the coast of Ghana in the fifteenth century to trade for gold and ivory. They called the Coast “Mina” or “Gold Coast”. The Dutch, Spanish, and English soon came, and forts were built all along the coast. In the seventeenth century, trading between Africa and the West shifted from gold and ivory to slaves. Europe needed a supply of cheap labour that could produce raw materials in the New World, and the indigenous peoples of the Americas had already been killed off. Over half of the Africans taken from the “Gold Coast” by force were taken by the British. The British stopped trading slaves in 1808. However, their exploitation of the land and the people of the “Gold Coast” through colonization were only just beginning. On March 6, 1844, the chiefs in the southern region of the “Gold Coast” signed a bond linking themselves and their people to the British crown. They agreed to follow British law in return for British protection from the Ashanti. This bond was the first document that gave the British political influence in the Gold Coast. (Gocking , 2005 ) As Europe industrialized under its capitalist system, it became imperative for nations to establish colonies. Industrialized nations needed colonies as sources of raw materials, as markets for importing industrialized goods, and as points for military defense. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, European countries struggled to claim as much territory along the coast as they could. This struggle is known as the Scramble for Africa. Like other European countries, the British were desperate to claim as much territory in Africa as possible. After a battle with the Ashanti, the British finally laid claim to the southern region of the Gold Coast”. On July 24, 1874, the British signed a peace bond with the Ashanti, giving them the right to rule the southern region. The British and the Ashanti continued to quarrel over the upper region, but, by 1922, the British colony known as the “Gold Coast” was clearly defined. ( Bournet , 1960 ) From the time that the peace bond was signed in 1874, resistance to colonization in the “Gold Coast” has been present. Joseph Samuel Appiah, a retired railways worker who was a leader in the independence movement of the 1940’s and ‘50’s, insists that people had been asking for independence all along. He spoke of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society, which formed immediately after the bond was signed, as well as two delegations that were sent in the 1930’s to ask the British government for independence. (Appiah, November 1999). According to Dr. Esi Sutherland-Addy, Researcher Fellow at the University of Legon, resistance in the “Gold Coast” had its roots in the elite class. Around the turn of the century, an elite class emerged in the “Gold Coast”. There were no higher institutions of learning in the colony at the time, so members of the elite and merchant classes had to send their children overseas for higher education. Studying overseas allowed these students to be exposed to what was going on all over the world. They learned about important movements and events such as the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the two World Wars. They were exposed to many ideas of freedom. Many of these students returned to Ghana to become lawyers and journalists and many of them spoke out in resistance to colonialism. It was this class of elite lawyers and journalists who would later form the first political party in the “Gold Coast” and begin the final struggle for independence. Though there was evidence of resistance by certain groups in the “Gold Coast”...
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