Austin Walker
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During the period of 1400-1650, Elmina had a strong influence in the Atlantic World. With the arrival of the Portuguese and later the Dutch, Elmina’s economy was greatly impacted. The Portuguese knew that Elmina would benefit them, so they made Elmina their home and changed how Elmina was run. Their goal was to be successful in trade, and the Portuguese developed Elmina into a powerful trading post. Elmina became the number one place for gold and slaves for Europe and the Americas.
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The Portuguese were trying to develop Guinea trade. While they were traveling down the African Coast, they discovered Elmina, which was already a trading post for the various nearby villages. Elmina was already a gold trading post, and the Portuguese were interested in the gold, along with wanting to create a more direct path to trade with Asia. The Portuguese decided to establish their own trading post in Elmina and create a monopoly on trade.
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In order to protect their trading post, the Portuguese decided to build Elmina Castle, also known as the fort of Elmina. They had to get the permission of the chief from a nearby village to build the Castle. By promising the chief that there would still be peace and trust, they were able to build the first permanent and largest structure built on Africa’s Guinea Coast. Elmina Castle represented the beginnings of a city on the Gold Coast, and the beginnings of the Portuguese taking control of the direction of Elmina’s economy. They were able to protect Elmina from their coastal enemies, and bring other Europeans to Elmina, which gave the coastal tribes access to other goods.
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The West African tribes prior to the arrival of the Portuguese, led a simple, peaceful, and trustworthy life, and their economy was strong as they traded with each other. Whenever they fought their enemies and captured them, they would hold them for ransom and then set them free. When the Portuguese started to run Elmina, they restricted how the tribes traded, and they encouraged them to capture the enemies and trade them to the Portuguese. The tribes learned that if they traded the slave enemies with the Portuguese, they would get firearms and other European goods, which would make them stronger against their enemies. The Portuguese liked this arrangement, because they did not want to have to personally find slaves, but they did want to grow their slave trade business. Both the natives and the Portuguese gained something, so the natives did not realize that the Portuguese were actually running things. Elmina Castle symbolized European’s involvement in West Africa. Elmina Castle held about 30,000 slaves each year and because it was the first successful slave trading post, others brought their ships to its Door of No Return.