|District||East Gonja District|
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Salaga served as a key market town of the Ashanti kingdom, particularly for the busy regional slave trade and kola trade with the Mossi and Gonja kingdoms. The city was sometimes referred to as "the Timbuktu of the south" for its cosmopolitan population and varied trade. Like many market towns of the time, Salaga's ethnic groups divided into separate wards. Estimates of its population in these years range from 20,000 to 50,000, with the Hausa language serving as a lingua franca. Muslims formed the most dominant religious group, though many residents retained animist beliefs as well.
With the 1874 British defeat of the Ashanti, the Gonja population of Salaga revolted, killing hundreds of the Ashanti. The violence resulted in an immediate decline in trade, which would be further devastated by a 1892 civil war. At this time, Britain and Germany had become the key European powers in the area, each supporting a rival candidate in the conflict; Britain seized the city directly in 1897. By 1900, the city served only as a zongo, a rest stop for caravans.
Visitors to Salaga today can still see the pond known as Wonkan bawa (Hausa for "the bathing place of a slave"), where slaves would be washed before selling to make them look as attractive as possible, and a young baobab tree on the site of the old slave market.
- Johnson, Marion. "The Slaves of Salaga." The Journal of African History 27.2 (1986): 341–362.
- Lovejoy, Paul E. "Polanyi's "Ports of Trade": Salaga and Kano in the Nineteenth Century." Canadian Journal of African Studies 16.2 (1982): 245–277.