Akan Relations, Commercial Networks, and the Portuguese Empire in West Africa, 1482-1637

Edmond Smith, Mariana Boscariol

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Early modern West Africa was a site of intensive local, regional, and increasingly global commerce. The establishment of a Portuguese presence on the Costa da Mina was intended to penetrate these networks, especially as a means of accessing gold extracted, processed and traded by various Akan polities throughout this period. While scholarship has recognised the value and significance of this trade within wider Portuguese imperial history, the influence of Akan agency over the structure and practices of Portuguese empire in the Costa da Mina requires further examination. In this article, we will examine how the Portuguese sought to engage with the Akan, how these relationships altered the Portuguese approach to empire in the region, and how Akan decision making fuelled competition between European empires on the Costa da Mina. We propose that, through this analysis, we can better integrate the role of African agency into our examination and understanding of the structures of global trade and empire that emerged during the early modern period.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of World History
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 May 2021


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