History of West Africa 1821-1888





European Presence on the Gambia, until 1821



In 1445 Portuguese discoverers reached the Gambia river. They established trading stations along the coast and along the lower Senegal and Gambia rivers, for the Gambia River first recvorded for 1456.
The English acquired trading rights from the Portuguese in 1588. In 1651, the COURLANDERS established trading posts - Fort Jakob (in English : Fort James; named after Courland's Duke, Jakob Kettler), Fort Bayona and Fort Jillifree. In 1659-1660 the Courland outposts were briefly occupied by the Dutch West India Company (WIC), then returned to a Courland administration.
In 1661, an English chartered company took FORT JAMES on the pretext that it was Dutch (which it was not; the Courlanders protested in vain; Courland ceded its possessions formally in 1664). In 1681 the French established FORT ALBREDA just across the river. The French took Fort James in 1695 and 1702, only to return it in 1697 respectively 1702. The most lucrative trading product during the 17th and 18th century were African slaves, destined to be sold to plantation owners in the West Indies, North America or Brazil. From 1721 onward, the British administration was headed by a GOVERNOR (previously by an agent).
In 1765 the British had conquered Goree and Saint Louis (Senegal) from the French, and Fort James was placed under the colony of Senegambia, seat of administration Saint-Louis.
In 1779 the French, coming from Fort Albreda, occupied Fort James, but returned it to Britain in 1783. In 1817, Britain returned Senegal, with Fort Albreda, to France, but held on to it's claim to the Gambia (Fort James). In 1816, facing the prospect of having to return Saint Louis (held since 1809, the temporary administrative center of British Senegambia) the British govt. bought Saint Mary's Island, where subsequently the city of BATHURST was founded (modern Banjul). Since 1816 the British navy used Bathurst as a station in order to suppress the slave trade.

British trade on the Gambia, as a monopoly, was granted to chartered companies - the GAMBIA ADVENTURERS COMPANY 1668-1684, the ROYAL AFRICAN COMPANY 1684-1750, the COMPANY OF MERCHANTS TRADING IN AFRICA 1750-1821. The decision of the British parliament to ban slave trade, taken in 1807 and effective in 1808, thwarted the resurgence of the Company's most important export trade, which had suffered from the decline of the Caribbean plantation industry in consequence of the Napoleonic wars and the Continental Blockade. The Company of Merchants Trading in Africa continued to enmgage in the - now illegal - slave trade and her charter was revoked in 1821.
In 1795 and in 1805, MUNGO PARK began two journeys of exploration into the interior of West Africa.






EXTERNAL
FILES
History of the Gambia, from Infoplease
History and Geography, from Gambia.com
History of the Gambia, from niica
History of St. James Island, from Roots Festival
Gambia Timeline, from Gambia Chronical
DOCUMENTS List of governors, from World Statesmen by Ben Cahoon
Victoria Cross by Campaign : First Expedition up the Gambia, 1866, from Victoria Cross Reference
REFERENCE Historical Dictionary of the Gambia, edited by Harry A. Gailey, Metuchen : Scarecrow 1975, 172 pp.



This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on April 4th 2005

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