Upper Senegal and Niger


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Upper Senegal and Niger is Number 107 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Upper Senegal and Niger was a French colony, established in 1904 as part of the Government-General of West Africa, which, with the adjacent Military Territory of the Niger, comprised the territories of the present-day states of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso. This study covers both the colony and the military territory. The book includes sections on physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. It stresses the importance of the Niger River, which “traverses the colony in the great arc of the Niger Bend, running north-east to Timbuktu, and thence downwards to the Nigerian people.” It briefly describes the different peoples living in this sparsely populated region, including Tuaregs, Moors, and Songhays (Songhai). The latter are described as “a great historic people,” who “were once the rulers over a vast negro empire which included the whole Sahara.” The study recounts the rivalry between Britain and France for control of the territory, the boundary settlements with adjacent British colonies worked out in 1898 and 1899, and demarcation of the boundary with the neighboring German colony of Togoland. The economic section describes road and railroad construction by the French and the workings of the agricultural economy. It notes that in 1914 “there were in Upper Senegal and Niger alone 2,000,000 cattle and 3,000,000 sheep and goats.”

Last updated: September 5, 2014