History of West Africa 1880-1918

British Sierra Leone, 1808-1880

In 1808, Britain took over Freetown (the colony of Sierra Leone) from the Sierra Leone Company. Meanwhile, the settlement of freed slaves continued. The British navy, patrolling the West African coast with the object to intercept vessels engaged in slave trade (forbidden to British citizens in 1807, generally banned by the Vienna Congress in 1815), used Freetown as their main base.
In 1827, protestant missionaries arrived.
Sierra Leone became "a diffusion centre for the English language, the Protestant religion, British trade, and British ideas throughout West Africa" (Flint 1965 p.360)
Administratively, Britain's colonies along the West African coast were united as British West Africa, administrated from Freetown/Sierra Leone. They included Accra/Ghana (1821-27, 1843-1850, 1866-1874), the Gambia, and since 1861 Lagos/Nigeria.
The colony of Freetown saw the development of a new social group, the KRIO, consisting of freed slaves from the Americas who had gone through the process of partial assimilation into an English-speaking environment, as well as slaves from various ethnic background, freed while aboard vessels on sea. The Krio developed their own identity and language, benefitted from trade with the British (as they traded many of the goods purchased to the inhabitants of the interior).
Around Freetown, the area under British sovereignty was extended. In 1863, Sierra Leone was given an ADVISORY LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL. The Select Committee on West Africa recommended to British parliament in 1865 to no more extend areas under British protection, to establish self-government and to withdraw from all settlements except for Sierra Leone (after Flint 1965 p.369).
In 1874, British West Africa was dissolved in two parts, Sierra Leone with Gambia, and the Gold Coast, with Lagos.

History of Sierra Leone, from Infoplease
Editorial Introduction to the Church Missionary Society Archive, by Rosemary Keen, from Adam Matthews Publications Ltd., with short chapter on Sierra Leone
DOCUMENTS Church Missionary Society Archive : West Africa, 1820-1880, inventory from Adam Matthews Publications Ltd. (Evangelical Mission)
World Statesmen : Sierra Leone, by Ben Cahoon
REFERENCE H.R. Lynch, Sierra Leone and Liberia in the Nineteenth Century, pp.327-340 in : JF. Ade Ajayi and Ian Espie (ed.), West African History, Ibadan UP (1965) 1967 [G]
J.E. Flint, The Growth of European Influence in West Africa in the Nineteenth Century, pp.359-379 in : JF. Ade Ajayi and Ian Espie (ed.), West African History, Ibadan UP (1965) 1967 [G]
Richard Burton, Three Days at Freetown, Sierra Leone (1863), pp.193-281 in : R.E. Burton, Wanderings in West Africa, New York : Dover 1991, KMLA Lib.Sign. 916.604 B974w

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on July 7th 2005

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