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Designing a New Fort on the Gold Coast: Johan Fredrik Trenks, the WIC, and the New Fort at Takoradi, 1774–1791

  • Erik Odegard


This article examines the decision-making process for a new fort which the Dutch West India Company proposed to build near Takoradi in present-day Ghana in the third quarter of the eighteenth century. By closely following the process of design, evaluation, and redesign of the fort, this article argues that the WIC was institutionally incapable of coordinating and carrying out such a complex project. The original design for the new fort was made in 1774 by Johan Frederik Trenks, a Silesian-born engineer who, as it turned out, was not current with modern design practices and used Dutch examples from the first half of the seventeenth century. The design was sent to the Netherlands for evaluation and returned with scathing criticism. The long, drawn-out process of design, evaluation, and redesign of what was after all a relatively small fort show the institutional paralysis of the WIC in the years leading up to the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780–84). Though the fort would never be completed, construction did begin shortly before the war. The conflict, followed shortly thereafter by the dissolution of the WIC, meant the project would never be completed.



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Erik Odegard is a PhD-candidate with Leiden University, where he studies the career-paths of colonial governors in the seventeenth century. Currently he is also a research fellow at the Dutch National Archives in The Hague, where he works on the archives of the Dutch East India Company.



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Unpublished primary sources
National Archives, The Hague (NA):
Archives of the WIC (WIC)
Verspreide Westindische stukken (Scattered West Indian Pieces)
Kaarten Leupe (Leupe map collection)
Kust van Guinea (Coast of Guinea)
Aanwinsten 1e afdeling (Acquisitions of the first department)
Hoge Regering Batavia (High Government of the Indies)
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Designing a New Fort on the Gold Coast: Johan Fredrik Trenks, the WIC, and the New Fort at Takoradi, 1774–1791

  • Erik Odegard


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