Accepted paper:

The early history of Elmina --- colonial or indigenous?


Harald Gropp

Paper short abstract:

In 1471 the Portuguese reach Elmina (in today Ghana) or Sao Jorge da Mina and built a fort there in 1482. Were they the first Europeans in Elmina? Were they the first "foreigners"? What about trade connections of the indigenous people? These questions of "precolonial" history will be discussed.

Paper long abstract:

In the European way of describing history, it looks as if the Europeans were the first to reach the Pacific Ocean, the first who reached America and so on. Concerning Africa, it is the "first" circumnavigation of Africa which is seen as the first big achievement of the Portuguese discoveries. On the other hand, it is clear that the Pacific Ocean was "full of ships" already in the 15th century before the Portuguese ships reached the "Cabo da Boa Esperan├ža", ships of Chinese, Indian, Arabic, and other origins. Similarly, maybe the ancient Egyptians and/or the Phoenicians circumnavigated Africa.

In the focus of this paper, an easier question will be discussed, which, however, is very much debated. In 1471, the Portuguese reached Elmina (or Almina?) in today Ghana. This soon became the most important fort and port along the African coast which served the Portuguese as a stepping stone on the long way to India.

However, who lived there until 1471 and also after 1471? How were the trade relations along this coast between the Muslim North of Africa and the regions further south? Where does the name Elmina come from? Were there earlier European ships from Italy (Venezia), from France or from other countries? How should this part of early African history be written? What does colonial and precolonial mean here? I shall try to answer some of these questions, at least partially.

panel P32
History: foundations and current readings