French Equatorial Africa


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. French Equatorial Africa is Number 108 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. French Equatorial Africa was an administrative division of the French Empire, established in 1910 under a governor-general responsible to the French authorities in Paris. It included the colonies of Middle Congo (the present-day Republic of the Congo), Gabon, Chad, and Oubangui-Chari (the present-day Central African Republic). The book covers physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. The section on political history recounts the key events by which France acquired this vast swathe of territory, the settlement of its borders with neighboring colonies controlled by other European powers, and the interactions between France and Germany, France and the United Kingdom, and France and Italy as they related to the territory. The economic section notes that the colonies that constituted French Equatorial Africa were relatively undeveloped, owing to both natural factors (few internal waterways, small population) and a lack of investment and other failures of French policy. Economic activity was dominated by 13 concessionaire companies that were mainly engaged in the extraction and export of animal and vegetable products. The chief exports in 1913 were rubber, wood (including tropical timbers such as ebony and mahogany), whale oil, and ivory.

Last updated: February 4, 2016