Between the years 1700 and 1820 the Ashantis of central Ghana fought a number of wars in nearly all the territories now comprising modern Ghana. Most interpretations of these wars have linked them with the European trade posts on the southern coast and the Muslim trade settlements in the north. The Ashanti wars were therefore either raids or attempts to open trade-routes to the trade-posts. These interpretations have been possible because writers have ignored the Ashanti expansionary movement before 1700, and have also been unable to interpret correctly the political significance of the institutions by which the Ashanti attempted to extend their rule into some of the conquered territories, and to integrate them into what the Ashanti conceived as ‘Greater Ashanti’—a political community incorporating the conquered Akan states under the rule of the Golden Stool, the supreme stool of Ashanti.
When, then, the pre-1700 Ashanti tradition and the introduction of Ashanti judicial, political and politico-religious institutions into some of the conquered territories are carefully considered, it becomes clear, in the writer's view, that the so-called Ashanti ‘empire’ should be divided into three categories of states: provinces, ‘protectorates’ and tributaries, on the basis of their political distance from Ashanti. The provinces—like the Ashantis mainly Akan-speaking peoples—were considered and treated as part of a Greater Ashanti ‘political structure’. The ‘protectorates’ were treated as allies or protected peoples according as economic or political circumstance dictated. The tributaries formed the economic and manpower base of the Ashanti expansion. But it must be noted that these relationships were fluid, and fluctuated with Ashanti military and political fortunes. Finally, the Ashanti political experiment was halted by the British and was therefore inconclusive. The student can, therefore, hardly reach rigid conclusions.
Lastly it appears that, pre-literate in areas where the history student is faced with an absence of the historian's usual materials, the analysis of institutions is probably one of the most fruitful approaches.