European Forts & Trading Posts in Africa

  • Plan du Fort St. Jacques, situé dans la riviere de Gambia

    "Plan of Fort St. Jacques, Situated on the Gambia River" (caption translation). This image shows the layout and architectural features, including holding areas or quarters for slaves (cases des negres and logement des Negres). In addition, (A) the Governor's quarters/residence and (C) powder magazine. Also published in Jean Baptiste Labat, Nouvelle Relation de l'Afrique Occidentale (Paris, 1728), vol. 4, facing p. 286.
  • T Fort, Creuecoeur

    This engraving shows a seaside view of the Dutch slave trading fort, Crèvecœur, which was built in 1649. It is a day's walk from Elmina. The engraving shows the fort from the sea with an African town on the right. The original drawing is from the 1679 manuscript. Jean Barbot (1655-1712) was a French explorer and merchant. Employed by the Compagnie du Senegal, Barbot documented two voyages along the coast of West Africa, then across the Atlantic to the Caribbean in 1678-1679 and 1681-1682.
  • Prospect of the European Factorys at Xavier or Sabi

    This engraving depicts an overhead view of Savi, including about 50 buildings and locales, which are individually identified and named, including the Portuguese, French, and British slave trading forts, palaces, compounds, courts and other town buildings. Various inhabitants and armed soldiers are milling about. Savi was the capital of the kingdom of Whydah in the Bight of Benin region. In 1727, Whydah was conquered by King Agaja of the kingdom of Dahomey, which helped transform the latter into a significant regional power. According to Robert Harms, "The city of Savi. . . was about four miles in circumference. It was so populous that the throngs of people made it difficult to pass along the streets. . . The daily markets featured all sorts of European and African commodities. Near the European compounds was a square shaded by tall trees where the English, French, Dutch, and Portuguese directors, merchants, and sea captains sat and transacted daily business, much like a European mercantile exchange" (see The Diligent (New York: Basic Books, 2002), p. 156).
  • Fort Nassau at Mowri

    This engraving depicts Fort Nassau and a town, called Moree, in the Voltaic region. It was the first fort that the Dutch established in 1598. Thomas Astley (d. 1759) was a British bookseller and publisher who never went to Africa. His imagined localities and illustrations of Africa were informed by a library of travel books at his disposal.
  • English Castle at Anamabou

    This engraving depicts an English fort at Anomabo (or Anomabu, Annamaboe) in the Voltaic region. Thomas Astley (d. 1759) was a British bookseller and publisher who never went to Africa. His imagined localities and illustrations of Africa were informed by a library of travel books at his disposal. In 1698, the Royal African Company described the facilities at Anomabo, which included "twelve great guns. . . a large tank or cistern. . . and a Negroe-house for one hundred and fifty Negroes. This fort. . . opens a trade . . . for gold, corn, palm-oyl and oyster-shells; also a very great trade for slaves." See Royal Africa Company, A Particular of the Royal African Company's Forts and Castles in Africa (London, ca. 1698). By the 1770s, it was reported that "almost every room in the fort is in a rotten, ruinous condition. . . very little slave trade at present." See John Roberts, Extracts from an account of the state of the British forts, on the Gold Coast of Africa [London: Printed for J. Bew, 1778).
  • Prospect of Cape Corse, or Coast Castle

    This engraving shows the top plan of Cape Coast Castle and other features surrounding the castle, e.g., the town, various paths. The bottom plan depicts gun placements, warehouses, barracks, etc. Astley adapted this image from William Smith, who was a surveyor employed by the Royal African Company in 1726 to survey their forts in West Africa. Thomas Astley (d. 1759) was a British bookseller and publisher who never went to Africa. His imagined localities and illustrations of Africa were informed by a library of travel books at his disposal.
  • Prospect of St. George's Castle at El Mina

    This engraving depicts Europeans and Africans trade enslaved people at St. George's Castle and Fort Conradsburg (Coenraadsburg). Elmina was called St. George d'el Mina, while the smaller fort on the right is St. Jago, also known as Coenraadsburg. Thomas Astley (d. 1759) was a British bookseller and publisher who never went to Africa. His imagined localities and illustrations of Africa were informed by a library of travel books at his disposal.
  • Plan of the Island of Gorée

    This engraving is a British diagram laying out the defences and organization of the French slave-trading island of Gorée, including sketches of forts labelled St. Michael and St. Francis. Other numbers identify locations of more buildings and points of reference. Thomas Astley (d. 1759) was a British bookseller and publisher who never went to Africa. His imagined localities and illustrations of Africa were informed by a library of travel books at his disposal.
  • Het Fort Nassau Geleegen op die Gout Cust in Guinea

    A. W. Lawrence, Trade Castles and Forts of West Africa (1964), pp. 242-44. Image courtesy of Merrick Posnansky, from the original in the British Library.
  • Kongeliche danske hoved Castell Christiansborg ved Accra

    "Main royal Danish castle of Christiansborg at Accra" (caption translation). Built by the Danes in 1660, this engraving shows the north and east sides of fort, from the southwest. It also depicts the neighboring African town of Accra in the Voltaic region. A clearer plate of this illustration, as well as a view from the northeast, is publshed in Selena Axelrod Winsnes, trans. and ed., A reliable account of the coast of Guinea (1760) by Ludewig Ferdinand Romer (Oxford University Press, 2000), plates 2 and 3. Also reproduced in A. W. Lawrence, Trade Castles and Forts of West Africa (Stanford Univ. Press, 1964), plate 44.
  • Casteel del Mina

    "Mina Castle" (caption translation). This image of Elmina in the Voltiac region shows a neighboring African town and European ships in the harbor. For an informed discussion of Dapper as an historical source, see Adam Jones , Decompiling Dapper: A Preliminary Search for Evidence (History in Africa, vol. 17 [1990], pp. 171-290).
  • Cape Corso Castle, the prospect of it on one side (top); A prospect of Cape Corso Castle on the opposite side (bottom)

    Both views show African houses/village in the center. Bosman described how "this is the English chief fort, which next to that of St. George d'Elmina is the largest and most beautiful on the whole coast; within it is well furnished with fine and well-built dwelling-places; before it they have also built a high turret to secure the lives of the people of the town, in case of an invasion of hostile Negroes" ( pp. 48-49). Bosman was an official of the Dutch West India Company and chief factor at Elmina. See also Christopher DeCorse, An Archaeology of Elmina: Africans and Europeans on the Gold Coast, 1400-1900 (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001).
  • Casteel St. George d'Elmina

    "Castle of St. George d'Elmina" (caption translation). From the Voltaic region, this view from the sea shows Elmina, which was built by the Portuguese in the 1480s. By 1637, the Dutch took it over until 1872. Bosman was an official of the Dutch West India Company and chief factor at Elmina. See Christopher DeCorse, An Archaeology of Elmina: Africans and Europeans on the Gold Coast, 1400-1900 (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001). Refer also to Image D021.
  • Chateau de Cormantin

    "Cormantin Castle" (caption translation). From the Voltaic region, this view from the sea shows Cormantin castle in the distant background. In the foreground, there are several European ships. For an informed discussion of Dapper as an historical source, see Adam Jones, Decompiling Dapper: A Preliminary Search for Evidence (History in Africa, vol. 17 [1990], pp. 171-290).
  • En aan d'andre zyde (Elmina)

    "And on the other side" (caption translation). This image illustrates Elmina castle in the Voltaic region. The view from the sea shows an African village to left and right. Bosman was an official of the Dutch West India Company and chief factor at Elmina. See also Christopher DeCorse, An Archaeology of Elmina: Africans and Europeans on the Gold Coast, 1400-1900 (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001). Refer also to image D020.
  • Cabo Corso Castle on the Gold Coast of Africa

    This image of Cape Coast castle in the Voltaic region shows central courtyard and surrounding walls/ramparts, guns pointing to sea, and European soldiers drilling in courtyard; African town to right. This image is taken from some secondary source and ultimately derives from a 1682 drawing by Henry Greenhill (1646-1708). Greenhill was appointed Governor of the Gold Coast by the Royal African Company. For more details see A. W. Lawrence, Trade Castles and Forts of West Africa (Stanford Univ. Press, 1964), plate 37 and passim. See also image D008.
  • Cape Coast Castle, on ye Gold Coast of Guinea

    This image seems to be one of several variations of a 1682 engraving of Cape Coast Castle in the Voltaic region originally drawn by Henry Greenhill (1646-1708). Greenhill was appointed Governor of the Gold Coast by the Royal African Company. In the 1690s, an account of the Royal African Company's forts in West Africa, reported that "among the facilities at Cape Coast Castle were repositories to contain one thousand Negroes, and vaults for rum, work-houses for smiths, armourers, and carpenters; seventy four great guns. . . pinnaces and cannoes attending the castle and garrison. . . gardens and grounds producing all necessaries for the factories and shipping. . . also ponds of fresh water" (see A Particular of the Royal African Company's Forts and Castles in Africa (London, ca. 1698)). A copy of this image is held in the British Library. See other reproductions in P.E.H. Hair, Adam Jones, and Robin Law, Barbot on Guinea [1678-1712] (London, 1992), vol. 2, after p. 392 and associated text. See also image D007.
  • Untitled Image (Fort Amsterdam)

    This image shows a view Fort Amsterdam at Cormantin in the Voltaic region. Note the African town on right.
  • Untitled Image (Fort Fredericksburg)

    This unidentified image shows a slave fort in the Voltaic region. In the foreground are African houses, people and boats. Note Africans being loaded on small boats on the beach. Fort Fredericksburg was completed in 1683, following a Brandenburg expedition under the command of Otto Friedrich von der Groeben in 1681.
  • Untitled Image (Elmina Castle)

    This image of the Voltaic region shows Elmina and another fort from the sea with European shipping in the foreground.
  • Untitled Image (Elmina Castle)

    This view of Elmina in the Voltaic region is from the sea and depicts an African town on right. This image was originally drawn by Johannes Vingboon (1616/1617-1670), who was a Dutch artist who never went to Africa.
  • Untitled Image (Arguin Fort)

    Arguin is an island off the western coast of the Sahara region. It is approximately 6x2 km in size, with extensive and dangerous reefs around it. This sketch details the fort construction and interior features such as entrance and gates, courtyard, cistern location, living quarters. The Portuguese first built this fort in late fifteenth century. It was taken over by Brandenbergers in 1685, and later by French etc.
  • Casteel del Mina ten tyde der Portugesen

    "Mina Castle at the time of the Portuguese" (caption translation). This image depicts Elmina castle in the Voltaic region. European ships were in the foreground, African houses/town shown in left hand corner and in various areas around the fort. In an informed discussion of Dapper as an historical source, Adam Jones writes "there is virtually no evidence that Dapper took much interest in what sort of visual material was to accompany his text, and that it was the publisher, Van Meurs, who probably did all the engraving himself." With respect to the plates, in particular, Jones concludes that "for those interested in seventeenth-century black Africa rather than in the history of European perceptions, few of the plates showing human beings and artefacts are of any value. . . [and] originated solely from Van Meurs' imagination. . . [although] they have been used as historical evidence in modern works." See Jones, "Decompiling Dapper: A Preliminary Search for Evidence" History in Africa, 17 (1990), pp. 187-190. See also Christopher DeCorse, An Archaeology of Elmina: Africans and Europeans on the Gold Coast, 1400-1900 (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001).
  • View of Fort at St. Louis, Senegal, 1780s

    Caption, vue de l'ile St. Louis du Sènègal prise du cotè de la mer (view of the island of St. Louis, Senegal, taken from the sea side); note African houses. Villeneuve lived in the Senegal region for about two years in the mid-to-late 1780s. The engravings in his book, he writes, were made from drawings that were mostly done on the spot during his African residence (vol. 1, pp. v-vi). The same illustration appears in color in the English translation of Villeneuve; see Frederic Shoberl (ed.), Africa; containing a description of the manners and customs, with some historical particulars of the Moors of the Zahara . . . (London, 1821).
  • James Island and Fort Gambia, 1755

    Surveyed in October 1755 by Justly Watson, Director of Engineers, this colored manuscript plan shows the fort, its storehouses, gun battery, quarters for European personnel, and, in the upper right, the quarters and yards where slaves were kept. Surrounding the central part of the fort on three sides, indicated by faint round circles, are the hutts for the castle slaves (left side) or Negros Hutts (right side and top). Another very clear architectural drawing of James Island and its fort was done in 1727 by William Smith, surveyor of the Royal African Company (see image mariners16 on this website ). Watson's drawing shows many more details and structures, indicating how the fort expanded between 1727 and 1755.
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