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Elmina, 'The Little Europe'


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This is a brief introduction to the history of Elmina, its castle, the people, and their traditions. It outlines the town's 500-year relations with Europeans, highlighting the transformations that have developed out of these interactions. Written by one of the top historians of Ghana and a leading scholar of the African diaspora, the book is based on original archival information and orally-derived sources. It is also richly informed by the writer's own personal knowledge as a Nyampa Safohen and citizen of Elmina. Despite the tremendous changes engendered by the European contact, Elmina's historical development demonstrates an amazing degree of cultural continuity and resilience in its political institutions, social organization, economic systems and worldview.



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Published 16 May 2018
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EAN13 9789988882976
Language English
Document size 9 MB

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Elmina, 'The Little Europe': European Impact and Cultural Resilience
First published in Ghana 2018 bySub-Saharan Publishers P.O.Box 358 Legon-Accra Ghana Email: saharanp@africaonline.com.gh www.subsaharanpublishers.com
© Joseph K. Adjaye 2018.
ISBN 978-9988-550-96-7
Copyright Notice No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmiĴed in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior wriĴen permission of the Author or the publishers.
Elmina, 'The Little Europe': European Impact and Cultural Resilience
Joseph K. Adjaye
SubSaharan Publishers Accra
I am indebted to my brother Dr. Robert E. Adjaye for urging me to undertake this task, my wife Dinah for her dedicated editorial assistance, and my sister Rose Priddy for her input in parts of Chapter 9. I am profoundly grateful to the Honourable Fritz Baffour for the passionate Foreword to this book that he wrote and to the several people who graciously reviewed the manuscript, especially Dr. Nana Ato Arthur, Professor Brigid Maa Sackey and Professor Robert Addo-Fening. I also owe a debt of gratitude to my late mother Elizabeth Ulzen Adjaye, who instilled in me the love of the family past, and especially the Elmina past.
This book has arisen out of the need for a simple, short readable account of the history of Elmina, its 500-year contact with Europeans, and the immediate and enduring impact that those interactions have had on the town. While recalling the glory that once was the Elmina that glowed as the first urban centre of the Gold Coast, the book unavoidably echoes a nostalgic past against the background of the present decadence and neglect, laying bare the yearning need for the town’s resurgence. Elmina, 'The Little Europe', covers a number of topics— the development of indigenous states and especially their kingship institution; the centuries of European contact with local communities; the slave trade and the place of slavery-related monuments such as castles in the infamous trade; the rise of Euro-Africans; the transformation of a little town called Elmina into a cosmopolitan centre dubbedThe Little Europe;the legacy of the long period of European interaction with the indigenes; change and continuity in our cultural heritage; and other related subjects. This is a story that resonates with the historical experience of other coastal areas in Ghana. Indeed, Elmina’s historical unfolding offers a model for that of other towns like Cape Coast or segments of larger places such as Osu in Accra. This book has been specially written to appeal to a wide audience: locals from Elmina seeking an understanding of their history, visitors from the African diaspora and elsewhere yearning for insights into their ancestral heritage, as well as the general readership. Senior secondary school and college students will equally find this a useful resource.
Elmina, traditionally known asÂdina and sometimes called Amankwaakrom, thus named after its founding ancestor KwaaAmankwaa--threedifferentnamesforasingularlyhistoric town in the Central Administrative Region of the West African Republic of Ghana on the Gulf of Guinea, overlooking the South Atlantic Ocean—is the subject matter of this important book. Elmina,Âdina or Amankwaakrom, according to many sources, has been in existence since the early fourteenth century in the Common Era. The town’s rise to prominence started in 1471 with the arrival on its shores of a fleet of Portuguese ships manned by hundreds of mariners in search of gold and their subsequent construction of Castelo de S o ã Jorge da Mina, St. George’s Castle of Elmina. Since then the history of sub-Saharan Africa cannot be fully told without acknowledging the influence and impact of this town on the socio-economic and political firmament of the continent, Europe, the Americas and the world at large. It was from Elmina/Âdina/Amankwaakrom that the eyes of Europe zeroed in on Africa’s immense wealth in human and natural resources, which eventually resulted in the infamous trans-Atlantic slave trade and culminated in the colonization of almost all of tropical Africa. This was the town that served as the main thoroughfare for the monumental dislocation of Black Africans to the “New World” of the Americas and beyond. Today it is likewise the Mecca of most sons and daughters of the African diaspora, but that’s not all; Elmina/Âdina/Amankwaakrom is also an embodiment of the traditions, culture, trials, tribulations and triumphs of the African peoples, ancient and modern. There have been many attempts to tell Elmina’s story in written form, some successful and some too mundane to be taken seriously. This study by a true son of Elmina/Âdina/ Amankwaakrom, an eminent and leading historian of Ghana
and the African diaspora, Professor Joseph K. Adjaye, is a concise and succinct account of this unique town’s history from a truly internal perspective—the development of West Africa’s first urban and cosmopolitan centre that earned the sobriquet “Little Europe”, the immediate and enduring legacy of the 500-year contact with the Portuguese, Dutch and British, the transformations that these interactions engendered in Elmina’s political and social institutions, the resiliency of the town’s cultural heritage, etc. It is these and other related subjects that constitute the crux of this long overdue book. Professor Adjaye brings to bear in this work not only the meticulous analysis of an accomplished historian but also his intimate knowledge of Elmina society as a captain of one of the traditional para-militaryAsafo companies. Indeed, he provides deep and rare insights into the historical unfolding of perhaps the most significant tourism destination of diasporan Africans, the location of two of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites and a unique and veritable living museum that Elmina is. As a citizen of Elmina and a kinsman of the author, I was thrilled when he asked me to write the foreword to this well researched and superbly written labour of love, because as a past chairman of the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, which is the legal custodian of all historic sites in the Republic of Ghana, this was just the ticket for not only aficionados of history or children of the African diaspora but also tourists, visitors and citizens of Elmina/Âdina/Amankwaakrom themselves to share in this rich history. I trust that all who are fortunate to lay hands on this great tome will have a thoroughly enjoyable reading!
Fritz Baour (Chairman, Ghana Museum and Monuments Board [2009 - 2017] and former Minister of Information, Republic of Ghana)
For Papa Kwamena Essile Adjaye (22 May 1954 to 1 March 2018) for his decades of distinguished leadership in Elmina state aairs