before 1888 History of West Africa 1919-1939

The Gambia, 1888-1918

In 1888, the Gambia was separated from Sierra Leone and made a CROWN COLONY. The seat of administration was BATHURST (since 1973 called Banjul). In 1889, Britain and France agreed that British sovereignty should extend as far as a cannon could shoot from a gunboat navigating the Gambia river (i.e. 15 km distance); hence the peculiar shape of the country. At that time, the agreement established spheres of interest. In 1894 Britain declared a protectorate over the stretches of territory assigned to Britain by the treaty with the French, but not part of the colony yet. From 1894 to 1902, British forces enforced the acceptance of British sovereignty by the local chieftains. The most memorable event was an Anglo-French expedition against Fodi Kabba (1901).
In 1901, the office of administrator of The Gambia as upgraded to that of a governor. The territory of The Gambia consisted of the colony, a patchwork of minute stretches of land, and of the protectorate. While the former was directly ruled by the British administration, in the latter the British attepted to rule through the chieftains (INDIRECT RULE). The protectorate administratively was divided into provinces (1902).
The Gambia being a remote possession, of secondary importance within the British Colonial Empire - the British claim to the territory primarily upheld in order to deny it to the French - the British administration did little to develop the colony & protectorate. In 1901 the first Anglican church in Bathurst was consecrated. In 1913, the west African Currency Board began to issue coins for British West Africa.
With the expansion of British authority came the responsibility to address the issue of native slavery; the major export product - peanuts - were traditionally grown by natives employing slave labour. In 1894 and 1906 legislation was introduced to abolish slavery, "but there is no evidence that it was ever enforced" (Hennig). Slavery rather was outphased in a transition period lasting several decades, being replaced by more ecnomical seasonal labour.
The GAMBIA REGIMENT, formed in 1901, saw active service in WORLD WAR I, fighting the Germans in Cameroon and in German East Africa.

History of the Gambia, from Infoplease
Banjul, from Infoplease
Rainer Chr. Hennig, An introduction to the economic history of rural Gambia, posted by AFROL
DOCUMENTS Victoria Cross by Campaign : 2nd Expedition up the Gambia, 1892, from Victoria Cross Reference
From British Military Medals : East & West Africa Medal, 1887-1900 for Campaigns in Gambia 1891-92, 1893-94
Article Gambia from Meyers Konversationslexikon, 1888-1890 edition, in German
REFERENCE Article : Gambia, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1913 p.648 (on events of 1912) [G]
Article : West African Colonies - Gambia, in : Statesman's Year Book 1895 pp.196-199, 1898 pp.200-203, 1901 pp.230-235, 1905 pp.254-261, 1910 pp.233-236 [G]
Article : Gambia, in : International Year Book 1898 p.342, 1899 p.355, 1900 p.376 [G]
Article : Gambia, in : New International Year Book 1907 p.292, 1908 p.271, 1909 p.271, 1913 p.272, 1914 p.278, 1916 p.253, 1918 p.237 [G]
Article : West Africa, British, in : International Year Book 1898 pp.908-909 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on August 30th 2007

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