In the late 16th century, Dutch merchants came to Africa to earn their penny’s worth from the trading that the Portuguese had already conducted with the indigenous population for over a century. The war with Spain, which Portugal was associated with at the time, gave the Republic of the United Netherlands a major motive to detract from the Portuguese (the Grand Design or ‘Groot Desseyn’). The West India Company (WIC) managed to get a firm foot on the ground in various places in the African West Coast, from Mauretania to Angola. In 1637, Elmina was conquered from the Portuguese and went on to become the Dutch power hub in West Africa. Eventually only a few fortresses and trading posts were held in a coastal strip of a couple of hundred kilometres around that place, at the ‘Coast of Guinea’, particularly in the modern-day Ghana, even after the WIC was wound up in 1792. Trade in gold, ivory and people brought money in the till The slave trade played a major role in the triangular trade with the West Indies. The fierce competition and the many wars nevertheless curbed the profits. In the 19th century, the ownership had nevertheless become a burden. The handover to Great Britain in 1872 freed the Netherlands for a burden.
Over the last few decades, researchers Van Dantzig, Schiltkamp and De Smidt have collected, transcribed and processed a substantial number of texts of treaties, regulations, instructions, resolutions and related documents concerning the Dutch presence on the Coast of Guinea. The material forms a valuable source for the history of the WIC but also for that of Ghana, slave trade, etc. Huygens ING is arranging to publish that legacy. It will appear in print as part V in the series ‘West India Registers of Ordinances’.