History of West Africa 1808-1880

Sierra Leone, until 1808

Named Sierra Leone by the Portuguese because lions had been sighted there, the coast was visited by the Portuguese since the 15th century. British ships (Hawkins, Drake) arrived first in the 1560s. In 1628 the English established a trading factory at Sherbro. In 1663 King Charles II. chartered the Royal Adventurers of England Trading into Africa.
Tasso Island was shelled by a Dutch fleet under Admiral Michiel Adriaensz de Ruyter in 1664, in retaliation for the maltreatment of Dutch merchants.
The Royal Adventurers and the Gambia Company established they established forts at Sherbro, at Tasso Island; they moved their trade from Tasso Island to Bence Island. In 1672 the Royal Adventurers were reconstituted as the Royal Africa Company.
In 1704 the French raided Sherbro, Bence Island factories. 1704-1713 Bence Island was abandoned. In the Treaty of Utrecht, Sherbro and Bence were returned to Britain. In 1719 the Sherbro factory was moved to Bence. In both 1719 and 1720, Bence was plundered by pirates. In 1726 the Company sent a surveyor. In 1728 a local Afro-Portuguese by the name of Lopez took Bence by a surprise raid. The Company withdrew from Sierra Leone, maintaining their claim.
In 1745 the London firm of Grant, Oswald and Sargent bought the Bence Island claim and refortified the island fort. In 1752 the Royal Africa Company disbanded.
From 1772 to 1779 the French held a fort on Gambia Island in Bence River. In 1785 the French built a new fort on Gambia Island, which was later given up. In 1785, Britain considered Sierra Leone as a potential penal colony. The plan was abandoned, credit to Edmund Burke's criticism of the plan as cruel, sending the inmates to a certain death.
In 1787 and 1792, the first attempts to settle freed slaves from the Americas were made at a place called FREETOWN. The SIERRA LEONE COMPANY controlled the colony. In 1806, a municipal authority was established at Freetown. Slave trade was outlawed by Britain in 1807. In 1808, Britain took over Freetown (the colony of Sierra Leone) from the Sierra Leone Company.
At Bence, the prices paid for slaves amounted to 18-24 bars in 1678, 40-60 bars in 1725, over 5 times the price of 1678 in 1787.

History of Sierra Leone, from Infoplease
African Alphabets, by Saki Mafundikwa, the Vai, Mende, Loma, Kpelle syllabaries, the Bassa Vah and Gola alphabets (Sierra Leone)
Our Heritage - from Slavery to Independence, from Sierra Leone High Commission London
DOCUMENTS World Statesmen : Sierra Leone, by Ben Cahoon

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on August 1st 2003, last revised on March 25th 2005

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