Virtual Kollage: The factors that accounted for the rise and growth of the forest states in Ghana before the seventeenth century
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The factors that accounted for the rise and growth of the forest states in Ghana before the seventeenth century

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THE FACTORS THAT ACCOUNTED FOR THE RISE AND GROWTH OF THE FOREST STATES IN GHANA BEFORE THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
Introduction
There is no reference to the forest states in Ghana without the mentioning of the Ashanti, the Denkyira, the Akwamus and the Akyeam for example. It must be mentioned that in the political and military schemes of these traditional states, each tried to expand its frontiers at one time or the other. For that reason there were more powerful ones who tried, and sometimes successfully so, to overpower the less powerful ones. The Ashantis, for example, extended their reach to the Savannah north and even to the coast to fight the Fantes ans later to confront the European settlers of the time.

Several factors are identified for being responsible for the rise of these traditional states in the middle belt of Ghana.

FACTORS THAT ACCOUNTED FOR THE RISE OF THE FOREST STATES
Sacred symbols of the states
One of the factors that have been identified as being responsible for the rise of these forest states is their sacred symbols. These sacred symbols meant a lot to them. The symbol of the Golden Stool, for example, was a source of national unity to the Ashantis. It gave them a sens e of togetherness. It gave their warriors the strength to fight in battles. Among the Denkyira, on the hand, every king had his own symbol on a stick. A typical symbol was that of an Ostrich. This symbol was based on the animal’s ability to turn its neck backward and forward. To them, it signified the ability to gather crucial intelligence that helped them to engage in their battles.

Traditional commodities
Another factor that contributed to the rise of the forest states was the existence of traditional commodities. Some of these states were in possession of important commodities like gold or were lying close to where these commodities could be extracted. It is argued that the wealth that poured into these states from their engagement in the trading of these commodities consolidated their very existence and also emboldened them to expand their territories.

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Fire arms
The introduction of firearms into the battles of these states influenced the successes they chalked in battles and the direction of their expansionist policies. The wealth of these states helped them to acquire firearms from European merchants trading in that merchandise. With the acquisition of fire power, the less powerful states became easy targets for the more powerful ones. The Fantes, for example, came under attacks from the Ashantis who wanted control over the lucrative trade on the coast. So the fire arms helped the forest states to rise and to hold on for so long.

Centralized political administration
The political organization of the forest states also contributed to their rise and sustenance. Each of them had a paramount king, assisted by divisional chiefs. There were other traditional political office holders. The paramount king had a Council of Elders and one of their main functions was to advise the king and his divisional chiefs in the performance of their functions.

For this political organizational structure to work seamlessly, there was the need for a centralized public administration in order to be able to effectively control the various units of the state machinery. This very much contributed to the rise of the forest states and their very existence.

The Atlantic slave trade
Around the time of the rise of the forest states in Ghana, there was high demand for labour to work in the newly developing plantations that were supplying raw materials to the European factories. Able-bodied men became merchandise which could be exchanged for money and or other goodies. The forest states soon discovered that they could make money trading in this new merchandise. In order to acquire slaves for sale, they had to engage in battles and to raid other territories. They were able to subjugate weaker communities and lots of men and women were captured and sold into slavery. This trade therefore brought much wealth to maintain their political control of their territories.

SAMPLE QUESTION(S)
1. Account for the rise of large centralized states in the forest zones of Ghana before 1800.
2. Explain the factors that contributed to the rise of forest zone societies.
3. Account for the rise of large states in the forest zones of Ghana by the seventeenth century.

ALSO READ:
The factors that contributed to the rise of the coastal states and kingdoms in Ghana

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