A Short History of the Ashanti Empire in West Africa

The Ashanti Empire (also spelled Asante) was an empire and kingdom in West Africa. It lasted from the late 17th century to the early 20th century and covered central Ghana, Togo and Côte d’Ivoire. The Ashanti Empire was one of the richest empires that has ever existed in Africa and had a very complex and sophisticated government.

THE FIRST ORIGINS OF THE ASHANTI EMPIRE

The ancient Ashanti people first migrated into the forests of present day Ghana in around the 13th century and formed many small states. The Ashanti Kingdom was first established in the 1690s by King Osei Tutu, who united over 30 smaller groups into one. The Kingdom grew quickly as it made alliances with neighbouring people.

The Ashanti people were very powerful militarily. They used firearms earlier than other areas nearby and used effective fighting strategies. The name “Asante” actually means ‘because of war’. Their effectiveness militarily allowed them to build up a very large empire and by 1750 it was the largest and most powerful in the region.

The Ashanti Kingdom had a very sophisticated government. The central government had a lot of control and people paid taxes to them. The Golden Stool, a chair made of gold, was the symbol of the King and his power. It was believed to have come down from heaven and was a symbol which was used to unite the people. Some Ashanti people still see the Stool to be sacred to this day.

THE ASHANTI KINGDOM WAS VERY RICH IN RESOURCES

A special kind of cloth, named Kente cloth, is associated with the Ashanti Kingdom. ‘Kente’ means basket or woven cloth. According to legend, two farmers saw a spider spinning web. They were amazed by the beauty of the web and rushed home to try and recreate it by weaving. They then presented the cloth that they wove to the King Osei Tutu. This cloth became associated with royalty and was usually made of silk, an expensive fabric. Today, Kente cloth is a popular item to buy in Ghana and West Africa.

The Ashanti Kingdom had a good trade with other areas of Africa because it contained much gold, allowing the Kingdom to become very wealthy. Gold was used as the currency and even poorer people decorated their clothing with gold dust. The Ashanti Kingdom also contained many fertile lands and forests. Later in the period, in the 19th century, the Kingdom also traded lots of goods with Europe (including gold, ivory and slaves). In fact, by the early 19th century, the Ashanti Kingdom was making most of its money from trading slaves. This made money for the Ashanti Kingdom but led to wars with neighbouring areas.

HOW THE KINGDOM CONTINUED AFTER THE 19TH CENTURY

The Kingdom began to grow less powerful from the late 19th century. The Kingdom fought several wars against the British and gradually became weaker and smaller. For example, the Ashanti Kingdom lost some of its southern land in 1874 after losing a battle to the British. This land became the Gold Coast colony. The Kingdom came under the control of the British in the early 20th century, but became independent when modern day Ghana was founded in 1960. During the 20th century, cocoa production became very important in the area of the Ashanti Kingdom. Today, Ashanti Kings are still elected, though they are not involved in national politics. The longevity and rich culture of the Ashanti Kingdom makes it a fascinating topic to study.

JOANNA NAYLER

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18 Comments

  1. Asia Tahara 4 years ago December 9, 2016

    This is an awesome read!!! Thank you so much!

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  2. Quaye William 4 years ago December 11, 2016

    Oh very nice history I never knew about this, thank you people.You’ve really educated me today. ..Thanks

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  3. Agyei Samuel 4 years ago December 15, 2016

    Nice story about the Ashanti kingdom

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  4. Ayeh Godwin 4 years ago December 24, 2016

    Wonderful im glad to have come across this site. Keep up the good work.

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  5. idris abdullahi 4 years ago January 24, 2017

    its a nice initiative keep it up

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  6. Isaac owusu 4 years ago February 4, 2017

    Great story keep it up.

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    • racha malki 4 years ago February 11, 2017

      je ne savais pas que l’Afrique avait une telle culture

      REPLY
  7. nana kwaku opoku 4 years ago August 8, 2017

    nice one never knew the meaning of Asante till I read this!

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  8. Mark Mensah 4 years ago August 9, 2017

    Brilliant one . Keep up the good work.

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  9. Joseph 4 years ago August 10, 2017

    Great to be enlightened by our Africa history and heritage.

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  10. Michael 4 years ago August 10, 2017

    Interesting story

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  11. Nana Yaw Duah 4 years ago August 10, 2017

    What a kindom ,the biggest kindom on earth .only kindom with golden stool no kingdom have it and the kindom is so powerful ,but is not powerful than kindom of God .

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  12. OBIRI YEBOAH BISMARK 4 years ago August 11, 2017

    Really excited about such ignite story . I call myself lucky to hear about this . thanks a lot!!

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  13. Joseph Mensah 4 years ago August 12, 2017

    Woow…thank you

    REPLY
  14. THOMASCKY 4 years ago August 12, 2017

    Keep the fire burning n never give up

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  15. Kilu Kim Richie 4 years ago August 13, 2017

    Nice history,

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  16. Prince Oppong kyekyeku 4 years ago August 14, 2017

    I’ m proud to be an Ashanti. What a great Empire.

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  17. Yacon Root 4 years ago August 31, 2017

    Great Website. Very much enjoyed reading.

    REPLY

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