Dutch Gold Coast

Dutch Gold Coast
Nederlandse Bezittingen ter Kuste van Guinea
Dutch colony


Location of Dutch forts in the Dutch Gold Coast (1700)
Capital Fort Nassau (1598-1637)
Fort Elmina (1637-1872)
Language(s) Dutch
Religion Dutch Reformed
Political structure Colony
 - 1624–1638 Adriaan Jacobs
 - 1816-1818 Herman Willem Daendels
 - 1871-1872 Jan Helenus Fergusson
 - Established 1598
 - Disestablished 6 April 1872

The Dutch Gold Coast or Dutch Guinea, officially Dutch possessions on the Coast of Guinea (Dutch: Nederlandse Bezittingen ter Kuste van Guinea) was a portion of coastal West Africa that was gradually colonized by the Dutch, beginning in 1598. The colony became the most important Dutch colony in West Africa after Fort Elmina was captured from the Portuguese in 1637, but fell into disarray after the abolition of slave trade in the early 19th century. On 6 April 1872, the Dutch Gold Coast was, in accordance with the Anglo-Dutch Treaties of 1870-1871, ceremonially ceded to the United Kingdom.[1]



Fort Elmina. Capital of the Dutch Gold Coast 1637-1872.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in contemporary Ghana. By 1471, they had reached the area that was to become known as the Gold Coast because it was an important source of gold. The Portuguese interest in trading for gold, ivory, and pepper so increased that in 1482 the Portuguese built their first permanent trading post on the western coast of present-day Ghana. This fortress, a trade castle called São Jorge da Mina (later called Elmina Castle), was constructed to protect Portuguese trade from European competitors, and after frequent rebuildings and modifications, still stands.[2]

The Portuguese position on the Gold Coast remained secure for over a century. During that time, Lisbon sought to monopolize all trade in the region in royal hands, though appointed officials at São Jorge, and used force to prevent English, French, and Flemish efforts to trade on the coast. By 1598, Dutch traders began trading on the Gold Coast, and subsequently built Fort Nassau near Mouri after the initial trading post was burned down by the Portuguese. After failing in 1625, they managed to capture Elmina Castle from the Portuguese in 1637. Fort San Sebastian at Shama and Fort Santo Antonio at Axim followed in 1640 and 1642 respectively.

The Dutch West India Company was given the monopoly on trade in the West Indies, including the Gold Coast, in 1621. Meanwhile, English, Swedish, and Brandenburger traders had joined the Dutch in the area. By the early 18th century, Danes had replaced the Swedes, and the Dutch had bought the Brandenburger possessions. The Portuguese had completely left the area, but still the Gold Coast had become the highest concentration of European military architecture outside of Europe. The European powers were sometimes drawn into conflicts with local inhabitants as Europeans developed commercial alliances with local political authorities. These alliances, often complicated, involved both Europeans attempting to enlist or persuade their closest allies to attack rival European ports and their African allies, or conversely, various African powers seeking to recruit Europeans as mercenaries in their inter-state wars, or as diplomats to resolve conflicts.[2]

After the Dutch managed to dislodge the Swedes from Butre and began building Fort Batenstein at that site, the leaders of the Dutch West India Company thought it beneficial to negotiate a treaty with the local political leadership in order to establish a peaceful long-term relationship in the area. The local Ahanta leaders found it equally beneficial to enter into such an agreement, and thus on 27 August 1656, the Treaty of Butre was signed. This treaty established a Dutch protectorate in the area, and established diplomatic ties between the Dutch Republic and the Ahanta. The treaty's arrangements proved very stable and regulated Dutch-Ahanta diplomatic affairs for more than 213 years. Only after the Gold Coast was sold to Britain in 1872, the provisions of the treaty were abrogated.

Anton Wilhelm Amo was born near Axim in 1703 and sent to Amsterdam by the Dutch West India Company around 1707. He was given as a present to Anthony Ulrich, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Amo was baptised, went to school at the Wolfenbüttel Ritter-Akademie (1717–1721) the University of Helmstedt (1721–1727), and the University of Halle (1727-1729), and subsequently gained a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Wittenberg in 1734 with the thesis On the Absence of Sensation in the Human Mind and its Presence in our Organic and Living Body, in which he argued against Cartesian dualism and in favour of a broadly materialist account of the person. In 1740, Amo took up a post in philosophy at the University of Jena, but in 1747 he returned to the Gold Coast where he died in 1759. Amo was the first black person to attend a European uiversity. He lies interred in the graveyard of Fort San Sebastian.

Around the same time Jacobus Capitein was born in the Gold Coast. He was forcibly taken to the Netherlands in 1725, where he was given to Jacobus van Goch. Capitein excelled at school and announced during his baptism in 1735 that he wanted to return to the Gold Coast as a missionary. To that effect he studied at Leiden University between 1737 and 1742, graduating on a dissertation defending slavery (!). He was subsequently installed by the Dutch East India Company as a Christian minister at Elmina, where he married Antonia Ginderdros. This was the first marriage among "Europeans" in Elmina. Ashanti king Opoku Ware I demanded that Capitein taught his children, which he did. Capitein died in Elmina in 1747.

In 1782, as part of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War, the British attacked Elmina on 18 February 1782. Although this attack failed, Britain seized Fort Nassau, Fort Amsterdam, Fort Lijdzaamheid, Fort Goede Hoop, and Fort Crêvecoeur from the Dutch. The Dutch Republic only managed to seize Fort Sekondi from the British. In the Treaty of Paris of 1784, all forts returned to their pre-war owners.

Disestablishment of the DWIC and the abolition of slave trade

Governor-General Herman Willem Daendels (1815-1818).

In 1791, the Dutch West India Company was disestablished, and on 1 January 1792, all territories held by the company reverted to the rule of the States-General of the Dutch Republic. During the French occupation of the Netherlands between 1810 and 1814, the Dutch possessions on the Gold Coast held the rather unusual position—together with the island of Deshima in Japan—of being the only Dutch territories not occupied by either France or Great Britain.

The British Slave Trade Act of 1807 effectively ended all slave trade from the Gold Coast. This profound change was coupled with the arrival of Herman Willem Daendels as Governor-General. Daendels was a Dutch patriot who played a major role in the Batavian Revolution, and subsequently became Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies for the Batavian Republic in 1807. This republican and revolutionist background made him controversial in the Kingdom of the Netherlands established in 1815, which effectively banned him from the country by assigning to him the rather obscure governorship of the Gold Coast in 1815.

Daendels tried to redevelop the rather dilapidated Dutch possessions as an African plantation colony driven by legitimate trade. Drawing on his experience in building the Great Post Road on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies, he came up with some very ambitious infrastructural projects, including a comprehensive road system, with a main road connecting Elmina and Kumasi in Ashanti. The Dutch government gave him a free hand and a substantial budget to implement his plans. At the same time, however, Daendels regarded his governorship as an opportunity to establish a private business monopoly in the Dutch Gold Coast.

Eventually none of the plans came to fruition, as Daendels died of malaria in the castle of St. George d'Elmina, the Dutch seat of government, on 8 May 1818. His body was interred in the central tomb at the Dutch cemetery in Elmina town. He had been in the country less than two years.

Recruitment of soldiers for the Dutch East Indies Army

The Ashanti princes Kwasi Boachi and Kwame Poku, who were sent to the Netherlands to receive education.

In the remainder of the 19th century, the Dutch Gold Coast slowly fell into disarray. The only substantial development during this period was the recruitment of soldiers for the Dutch East Indies Army. This recruitment of the so-called Belanda Hitam (Indonesian for "Black Dutchmen") started in 1831 as an emergency measure as the Dutch army lost thousands of European soldiers and a much larger number of "native" soldiers in the Java War (1825-1830), and at the same time saw its own population base diminished by the independence of Belgium (1830). As the Dutch wanted the number of natives in the Dutch East Indies Army to be limited to roughly half the total strength, to maintain the loyalty of native forces, the addition of forces from the Gold Coast seemed an ideal opportunity to keep the army at strength and loyal at the same time. It was also hoped that the African soldiers would be more resistant to the tropical climate and tropical diseases of the Dutch East Indies than European soldiers.

In 1836, the Dutch government had decided to recruit soldiers via the King of Ashanti. General Jan Verveer arrived for this purpose in Elmina on 1 November 1836, and went to the Ashanti capital of Kumasi with a delegation of about 900 people. After long negotiations, an agreement with King Kwaku Dua I was made. A recruitment depot was established in Kumasi, and furthermore the king sent the young Ashanti princes Kwasi Boachi and Kwame Poku with General Verveer to take with him to the Netherlands, so that they could receive a good eduction. Kwasi Boachi later received education at the forerunner of Delft University and became the first black Dutch mining engineer in the Dutch East Indies. Dutch author Arthur Japin wrote a novel about the life of the two princes with De zwarte met het witte hart (1997).

Trade of forts with Britain and subsequent cession

The Dutch Gold Coast after the trade of forts with the British.

Whereas the Dutch forts were a colonial backwater in the 19th century, the British forts were slowly developed into a full colony, especially after Britain took over the Danish Gold Coast in 1850. The presence of Dutch forts in an area that became increasingly influenced by the United Kingdom was deemed undesirable, and in the late 1850s British began pressing for either a buyout of the Dutch forts, or a trade of forts so as to produce more coherent areas of influence.

In the Dutch political landscape of the time, a buyout was not a possibility, so a trade of forts was negotiated. In 1867, the Convention between Great Britain and the Netherlands for an Interchange of Territory on the Gold Coast of Africa was signed, in which all Dutch forts to the east of Elmina were handed over to Britain, while the British forts west of Elmina were handed over to the Netherlands.[3]

The trade proved a disaster for the Dutch, as their long-standing alliance with the mighty inland Ashanti Empire tribe did not fare well with Fante population around the new forts assigned to them, who were allied with the British. A Fante Confederacy was founded to drive the Dutch out.[4] Shortly after the transfer, the Dutch colonial minister began secretly negotiating a handover of all Dutch forts to Britain. In the Gold Coast Treaty of 1871, the whole colony was ceded to the United Kingdom for 46,939.62 Dutch guilders.[5]


After Indonesia gained independence in 1945, most Belanda Hitam migrated to the Netherlands, since they had been soldiers of the Dutch East Indies Army. Other than that, the Dutch colonial history on the Gold Coast was more or less forgotten. This changed slightly after Arthur Japin published the earlier mentioned De zwarte met het witte hart in 1997. This attention also revealed that the head of Ashanti king Badu Bonsu II, taken to the Netherlands after his execution in 1838, was still in the possession of the Leiden University Medical Center. The head of the king was handed over to the Ghanaian ambassador in a ceremony held on 23 July 2009 in The Hague.[6]

Remnants of Dutch presence in the Gold Coast, other than the forts along the coastline, are Dutch surnames which were taken on by the descendents of the children the Dutch slave traders had with their black mistresses. Bossman is a common surname in Ghana, and ultimately derives from the Dutch slave trader Willem Bosman.[7] Other Ghanaian surnames derived from Dutch names include Bartels, Van Dyck, and De Veer.[8]


Main forts

Map of the main forts of the Dutch Gold Coast
S. Sebastian
St. Antonio
Goede Hoop
Vreden- burgh
Map of the main forts of the Dutch Gold Coast
Place in Ghana Fort name[9] Founded/
Ceded Comments
Mouri Fort Nassau 1598 (1612) 1868 The first Dutch trading post on the Gold Coast opened around 1598. In 1612, it was expanded to a fort. Capital of the Dutch Gold Coast between 1598 and 1637. Occupied between 1781 and 1785 by the British. Traded with the British in 1868.
Butri Fort Batenstein 1598 (1656) 1872 Second Dutch trading post on the Gold Coast. Expanded to Fort Batenstein in 1656. Site of the signing of the Treaty of Butre.
Elmina Fort Elmina 1637 1872 Captured from the Portuguese in the Battle of Elmina (1637). Capital of the Dutch Gold Coast between 1637 and 1872.
Elmina Fort Coenraadsburg 1637 (1665) 1872 Captured from the Portuguese together with Fort Elmina. Originally a reinforced chapel on Saint Jago Hill from which Fort Elmina could easily be attacked. For this reason reinforced by the Dutch after the capture of Elmina. Extended to a full fort in 1665.
Shama Fort San Sebastian 1640 1872 Captured from the Portuguese in 1640.
Axim Fort Santo Antonio 1642 1872 Captured from the Portuguese. Occupied between 1664 and 1665 by the British.
Accra Fort Crêvecoeur 1642 1868 Situated near Fort Christiansborg (Danish), and Fort James (British). Occupied between 1781 and 1786 by the British. Traded with the British in 1868.
Sekondi Fort Orange 1642 (1690) 1872 Trading post established by the Dutch in 1642. Enlarged into a fort in 1690, and destroyed by the Ahanta in 1694. Restored afterwards.
Takoradi Fort Witsen 1665 1872 Originally built by the Swedes.
Cormantin Fort Amsterdam 1665 1868 First British fort (1631) on the Gold Coast, captured in 1665 by Engel de Ruyter. Occupied between 1781 and 1785 by the British. Traded with the British in 1868.
Senya Beraku Fort Goede Hoop 1667 1868 Occupied between 1781 and 1785 by the British, and occupied by the local Akim between 1811 and 1816. Traded with the British in 1868.
Akwidaa Fort Dorothea 1687 1872 Formerly part of the Brandenburger Gold Coast. First occupied by the Dutch in 1687 and finally bought in 1721.
Komenda Fort Vredenburgh 1682 1872 A trading post was established by the Dutch near this site around 1600, but abandoned soon afterwards. The fort was built in 1682. In 1687, the English Fort Komenda was built nearby. Occupied between 1781 and 1785 by the British.
Apam Fort Lijdzaamheid 1697 1868 Occupied between 1781 and 1785 by the British. Traded with the British in 1868.
Princess Town Fort Hollandia 1724 1872 Formerly part of the Brandenburger Gold Coast, bought in 1721 by the Dutch. Up until 1724 occupied by the local Jan Conny.

Trade of forts with Britain

In 1868, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands traded some forts in order to create more geographically contiguous areas of influence.[3] The Netherlands ceded Fort Nassau, Fort Crêvecoeur, Fort Amsterdam, Fort Goede Hoop, and Fort Lijdzaamheid, and in return received Apollonia (renamed Fort Willem III), Fort Dixcove (renamed Fort Metalen Kruis), Fort Komenda (not to be confused with the already Dutch Fort Vredenburgh, also in Komenda), and Fort Sekondi (not to be confused with the already Dutch Fort Orange, also in Sekondi). This arrangement proved short-lived, as the colony was completely ceded to the United Kingdom in 1872.

Place in Ghana Fort name Founded/
Ceded Comment
Beyin Fort Willem III 1868 1872 Previously British Fort Apollonia.
Dixcove Fort Metalen Kruis 1868 1872 Previously British Fort Metal Cross.
Komenda Fort Komenda 1868 1872 Previously British Fort Komenda.
Sekondi Fort Sekondi 1868 1872 Previously British Fort Sekondi.

Temporarily held forts

Apart from the main forts held for more than a century, other forts in the region have been temporarily occupied by the Dutch:

Place in Ghana Fort name Founded/
Ceded Comments
Cape Coast Cape Coast Castle 1637 1652
Anomabu Fort William 1640 1652
Egya Fort Egya 1647 1664 English trading post built in 1647, but conquered in the same year by the Dutch. Demolished in 1665 by the British after they had recaptured it in the year before.
Ankobra Fort Ruychaver 1654 1659 Built together with Fort Elise Carthago on the Ankobra River. Attacked by the local population and abandoned.
Ankobra Fort Elise Carthago 1702 1706 (?) Dutch trading post between 1650 and 1702.
Keta Fort Singelenburgh 1734 1737 Destroyed by the Dutch in 1737 after it was attacked by the local population. The Danish built Fort Prinsensten near the abandoned fort in 1784.
Sekondi Fort Sekondi 1782 1785 Captured from the British in the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War. Given back, but regained in 1868 as part of a forts trade with the United Kingdom (see above).

See also

Fort Coenraadsburg and Elmina Castle in Elmina, Dutch Gold Coast



External links

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