Republic in West Africa, N of the Gulf of Guinea, bordered on the E by Togo, on the W by Ivory Coast, and on the N by Burkina Faso. Ghana’s earliest history is unknown. The peoples currently inhabiting the country arrived in waves of migration from the N and E. The coast was taken over by Akan arrivals in the 15th century, and small chiefdoms developed that continually jostled each other. In the 17th century a powerful Ashanti state had begun to rise and control the inland forest regions. European traders began visiting the Guinea coast in the late 15th century searching for ivory, spices, and gold; but black slaves quickly became the major export commodity. Ashanti prospered as it supplied captives to the European slavers who held fortified trading posts along the coast. Great Britain dominated the coastline by 1800, and a string of conflicts with the inland Ashanti began. In 1873–74 Great Britain finally managed to gain the upper hand when a force under Sir Garnet Wolseley burned the Ashanti capital at Kumasi. Ashanti was made a colony in 1874, and in 1901 Great Britain claimed the northern hinterland s as a protectorate after it had decisively put down the last of several Ashanti uprisings. In 1914 Western Togoland was added to complete the British rule of the Gold Coast.
Ghana’s national identity slowly coalesced during the 20th century as Great Britain allowed local rulers to participate in the colonial government and as cocoa farming supported the economy. In 1948 the nationalistic process was spurred by widespread urban rioting supported by a broad spectrum of the population. Kwame Nkrumah led the nationalist movement, and on March 6, 1957, independence was attained as Ghana was formed from the union of the Gold Coast and British Togoland.
The new country faced serious internal division as different sectional parties resisted integration. In 1960 a new constitution, establishing a presidential republic, was adopted. Nkrumah was elected head of state. Stability eluded Ghana, however, and several assassination attempts were made on Nkrumah. In 1966 the military seized power by a coup while Nkrumah was out of the country and ruled until 1969, when a civilian government was reestablished. In 1972 another military coup took place, and a series of military leaders ran the nation until 1979. After a coup by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, Hilla Linmann was elected president of the Third Republic of Ghana, restoring civilian rule to the country. Rawlings seized power again in 1981, and tightened his political control throughout the 1980s. Ghana borrowed from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and in the late 1980s the economy began to show significant growth. In 1992 under a new constitution, multiparty elections were held, and Rawlings won the presidency. In 1994, ethnic warfare in northern Ghana killed thousand s and displaced many more as refugees from the fighting. In the 1996 elections, Rawlings was reelected. Under Ghana’s constitution, Rawlings could not run for reelection in 2000, and opposition cand idate John Agyekum Kufuor, of the New Patriot Party was elected president, and was reelected in 2004 as the economy improved somewhat.