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. Liberia is Number 130 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. Liberia was originally founded by the American Colonization Society as a homeland for liberated slaves from the United States. It became an independent republic in 1847. Along with Abyssinia (Ethiopia), it was the only independent state in Africa at that time. The book contains sections on physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. The section on social and political conditions notes the importance of influences from the United States, including the strength of the Protestant churches and church schools, but also discusses the complex relationship between the “American-Liberian minority” and the great mass of the indigenous population. The economic section stresses the potential wealth of Liberia, based on agriculture, forestry, fishing, and many forms of native manufacture, including basket and mat making, the spinning, weaving, and dyeing of cotton, iron work, pottery making, and woodwork. Important commercial crops included coffee, cocoa, palm oil and palm kernels, and piassava (palm fiber).

Last updated: February 18, 2015