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. Gambia is Number 91 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. Gambia (the present-day Republic of Gambia) was a British-controlled territory, located on the Atlantic Coast of Africa and completely surrounded on land by the French colony of Senegal. It comprised both a colony and an adjacent protectorate. The study covers physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. It summarizes the historical rivalry between Great Britain and France for control of regions along the Senegal and Gambia Rivers, the establishment of the British stronghold at Fort James, and the founding of Bathurst (present-day Banjul) in 1816. It notes that the “British connexion with Gambia dates from the earliest times of British enterprise in West Africa,” but it is silent on the great role that slavery and the slave trade played in the history of the colony. It lists the main peoples living in the colony as Mandingo (Mandinka), Fula, Jollof (Wolof), and Jolah (Jola). The main agricultural products are given as groundnuts, West African oil palm, and kola nuts. The study takes an optimistic view of the economic prospects of the colony, and notes that the Gambia River, “for the 280 miles of its course in British territory, is the best of all West African rivers and estuaries for navigable purposes, and of great value as a trade route.” Gambia received independence from the United Kingdom on February 18, 1965.

Last updated: February 18, 2015