THE GUINEA COASTS
Description and Geography
Also just called Guinea. A coastal region stretching from Gambia River to the Gabon Estuary. Guinea is subdivided into a number of coasts:
- The Swamp Coast: Named after its mangroves and swamps. Stretches from the Gambia River to Sherbro Island. Although this stretch is drier than the rest of Guinea, several rivers empty here making the coast swampy and covered in mangroves.
- The Grain Coast: Also called the Pepper Coast. Named after the grain of paradise, the pungent peppery seeds of the African plant Aframomum melegueta that is grown here in abundance. Stretches from Sherbro Island to Cape Palmas. This is the most humid stretch of Guinea receiving the most rainfall. The coast used to be covered with rainforests.
- The Ivory Coast: Named after the ivory from elephant tusks that could be traded here during the early colonial period. Stretches from Cape Palmas to Cape Three Points. Like the Grain Coast, it is humid and used to be covered with rainforests.
- The Gold Coast: Named after the gold dust that was used here as currency by its coastal chiefdoms. Today, it is more famous for the numerous European castles that dot the coast. Stretches from Cape Three Points to Cape Saint Paul. West of Akra, the coast is humid and used to be covered in rainforest. East of Akra, the climate is drier with coastal savannah.
- The Slave Coast: Named after the slaves that could be traded here even after most countries had banned the slave trade. Stretches from Cape Saint Paul to the Mouths of the Niger. The bit occupied by Togo is coastal savannah. The rest is mostly mangrove. Today, this stretch is also called the Eastern Gold Coast - while Gold Coast proper is also called the Western Gold Coast.
- The Wood Coast: Named after the rainforest that extends far inland from the coast. Stretches from the Mouths of the Niger to the Gabon Estuary. The rainforest here is the most intact in Guinea.
The countries today in Guinea are: Gebaland, French Guinea, the Islamic Kingdom of Guinea, Batavian West Africa, the Pepper Coast, Mali, the Gold Coast, Gadangmeland, Togo, Camerão, Castilian Guinea,Gabon, St. Thomas and Prince, and Ferdinand Po. The Islamic Kingdom is sometimes, and maddeningly, called simply "Guinea".
Originally, Europeans traded in tropical goods like the pepper of the Grain Coast and the ivory of the Ivory Coast. But eventually the slave trade proved to be far more lucrative.
Competition was fierce, yet by the end of the 18th century, all the original contenders were still present. Austro-Dalmatia was the most dominant, however, with outposts throughout the Guinea Coasts. The Swamp Coast had Austro-Dalmatian, French, and Portuguese outposts; the Grain Coast only had Batavian outposts; the Ivory Coast only had Austro-Dalmatian outposts; the Gold Coast had Batavian, Danish-Norwegian, and Austro-Dalmatian outposts; the Slave Coast only had Austro-Dalmatian outposts; and the Wood Coast had Portuguese, Castillian, and French outposts. The islands of St. Thomas and Prince were English, while the island of Ferdinand Po was Aragonese.
Austro-Dalmatia's dominance over the slave trade forced its competition to seek alternatives. The first to do so was Denmark-Norway, spearheaded by Dr. Paul Erdmann Isert, who started to experiment with plantations in Guinea in 1788. By 1792, Denmark-Norway declared the slave-trade illegal. The other European countries quickly followed, except Austro-Dalmatia.
In 1796, Danish-Norwegian abolitionists purchased some land along the Swamp and Grains Coasts for the free negroes of Danish West India (Cruzan Islands) and Danish Guinea. These lands would later grow and become called Gebaland and the Pepper Coast.
During the first half of the 19th century, the Scandinavian Realm and the Federated Kingdoms waged a campaign against the Austro-Dalmatian slave-traders. Slaves freed by Scandinavia were given land in Gebaland and the Pepper Coast, those freed by the Federated Kingdoms were given land in St. Thomas and Prince and in the island of St. Helena in the middle of the Atlantic.
Once the slave trade was finally banned by Austro-Dalmatia, a new name for the Slave Coast was found.(1) Since the territory's administrative centre was at Akra (in the Gold Coast), they took the easy way out and called it East Gold Coast.
Meanwhile, the Batavian Kingdom was experiencing some trouble with the Ashanti, who were harassing Batavia's possessions in the Gold Coast. By 1872, the Batavians gave up and sold their possessions to Austro-Dalmatia, who was the only interested buyer. Austro-Dalmatia then began an aggressive campaign to subdue the Ashantis.
(1) I have no idea when Austro-Dalmatia gave up the slave trade. But the Scandinavian and British campaign must have made things difficult for them.