History, Politics & Society
The largely unknown story of the British presence in pre-Independence Senegal. The British were initially lured to the region by the prospect of trade in gold. After brief periods of rule of the slaving and trading islands of Gorée and Saint-Louis, in 1765 Senegambia became the very first British Crown colony in Africa.
Britain’s foothold on the coast of Senegal was rarely more than precarious, its early administrations characterised by corruption, drunkenness and violence, weakened further by disease and forever vulnerable to attacks by France. The brutality of one of the British Governors was to become legendary with thousands of people watching his eventual hanging. The book covers Britain’s final administration of Saint-Louis and Gorée at the beginning of the 19th century, a period during which governance improved and the slave trade was outlawed. These islands were then restored to France, but tragedy and horror followed the shipwreck of a frigate carrying French administrators and troops, as immortalised in Gericault’s Le Radeau de la Méduse.
The book also tells the story of how the borders of The Gambia came to be drawn. After a brief look at the history of Britain’s diplomatic representation in colonial Senegal, the book ends with the extraordinary story of Operation Menace, a failed attempt in 1940 to persuade Vichy forces in Senegal to declare for General de Gaulle which ended in Frenchmen killing Frenchmen and a British naval bombardment of Dakar.
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