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Elmina is a historic town on the south coast of Ghana in West Africa. It is renowned for its significant role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade during the colonial period. The town is home to Elmina Castle, also known as St. George’s Castle, which was built by the Portuguese in 1482. Elmina Castle is one of the oldest European-built structures in sub-Saharan Africa and served as a key hub for the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The castle changed hands between the Portuguese, Dutch, and British over the centuries. It was originally used for trade in gold and ivory but later became a central point for the transportation of enslaved Africans to the Americas. The dungeons of Elmina Castle were notorious for their harsh conditions, and the site is a powerful and somber reminder of the brutal history of the slave trade.

Today, Elmina is not only a historical site but also a vibrant town with a mix of cultures and economic activities. The castle and its surroundings attract tourists and scholars interested in understanding the impact of the trans-Atlantic slave trade on the African continent and its lasting consequences.

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Elmina, also known as Edina by the local Fante, is a town and the capital of the Komenda/Edina/Eguafo/Abirem District on the south coast of Ghana in the Central Region, situated on a bay on the Atlantic Ocean, 12 kilometres (7+12 miles) west of Cape Coast. Elmina was the first European settlement in West Africa and it has a population of 33,576 people.


Prior to the arrival of the Portuguese, the town was called Anomansah ("perpetual" or "inexhaustible drink") from its position on the peninsula between the Benya lagoon and the sea.

In 1478 (during the War of the Castilian Succession), a Castilian armada of 35 caravels and a Portuguese fleet fought a large naval battle near Elmina for the control of the Guinea trade (gold, slaves, ivory and melegueta pepper), the Battle of Guinea. The war ended with a Portuguese naval victory, followed by the official recognition by the Catholic Monarchs of Portuguese sovereignty over most of the West African territories in dispute embodied in the Treaty of Alcáçovas, 1479. This was the first colonial war among European powers. Many more would come.

The town grew around São Jorge da Mina Castle, built by the Portuguese Diogo de Azambuja in 1482 on the site of a town or village called Amankwakurom or Amankwa. It was Portugal's West African headquarters for trade and exploitation of African wealth. The original Portuguese interest was gold, with 8,000 ounces shipped to Lisbon from 1487 to 1489, 22,500 ounces from 1494 to 1496, and 26,000 ounces by the start of the sixteenth century.

Later, the port expanded to include tens of thousands of slaves channeled through the trading post of Elmina, ten to twelve thousand from 1500 to 1535 alone. By 1479, the Portuguese were transporting slaves from as far away as Benin, who accounted for 10 percent of the trade in Elmina, and were used to clear land for tillage.: 23–24 

The location of Elmina made it a significant site for re-provisioning ships headed south towards the Cape of Good Hope on their way to India. After years of Portuguese commerce on the Elmina Coast, the Dutch learned of the profitable activity taking place through Barent Eriksz of Medemblik, one of the earliest traders and Guinea navigators. Ericksz learned about trading on the Elmina coast while he was a prisoner on Principe and subsequently became a major resource to the Dutch in terms of providing geographical and trading information. The Dutch West India Company captured Elmina in 1637; in subsequent centuries it was mostly used as a hub for the slave trade. The British attacked the city in 1782, but it remained in Dutch hands until 1872, when the Dutch Gold Coast was sold to the British. The king of Ashanti, claiming to be suzerain, objected to the transfer, and initiated the third Anglo-Ashanti war of 1873–1874.

Elmina is also home to Fort Coenraadsburg on St. Jago Hill, built by the Portuguese in 1555 under the name Forte de Santiago; it was used for commerce. In 1637, it was conquered and renamed by the Dutch, after they captured Elmina's main castle. Today, Elmina's main economic industry is fishing, salt production and tourism. Elmina Castle is very close to Cape Coast Castle, another historic fortress notable for its role in the transatlantic slave trade.


Beginning in 2003, Elmina, along with foreign investors, began The Elmina Strategy 2015, a massive project to improve many aspects of the town, consisting of water drainage and waste management helping to improve the health of the citizens, repairing the fishing industry and harbour of within Elmina, tourism and economic development, improved health services, and improved educational services.


Like most of Ghana, Elmina has a tropical savanna climate (Köppen Aw) with consistently hot weather year-round. Typically for the far south of the country, there are two rainy seasons — a main one from April to June and a lesser one from September to November — and two dry seasons, a typical West African dry season from December to February due to the harmattan wind, and a less typical dry season from mid-July to mid-September with less hot temperatures and abundant fog due to the northward extension of the Benguela Current.


Apart from Elmina Castle and Fort Coenraadsburg, the main tourist attractions in Elmina include the Dutch Cemetery and the Elmina Java Museum.

Sister cities

List of sister cities of Elmina, designated by Sister Cities International:


Elmina is home to the annual Bakatue Festival, a celebration of the sea and the local fishing culture, held on the first Tuesday of July each year.

Bakatue translated means "the opening of the lagoon" or the "draining of the Lagoon". It is celebrated to commemorate the founding of the town, Elmina by the Europeans. It is also celebrated to invoke the deity, Nana Benya's continuous protection of the state and its people.

Notable institution

  • Benya FM


See also

  • Elmina Castle




  • Diffie, Bailey W., and George D. Winius, Foundations of the Portuguese Empire, 1415-1580, Volume 1, University of Minnesota Press, 1977.
  • Newitt, Malyn, A History of Portuguese Overseas Expansion, 1400-1668, Routledge, New York, 2005.

External links

  • Ghana-pedia website - Elmina
  • Elmina Site Page from Aluka Digital Library
  • Elminaheritage.com



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